Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on European and other
Western firms on Wednesday to stop violating international law by working in
West Bank settlements.
Abbas’s call came during a meeting in Brussels
with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, a former Belgian prime
The PA leader is currently on a tour of several EU countries to
urge their governments to activate regulations against settlements and Jewish
neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
As Abbas worked against West Bank
settlements, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John
Kerry met in Rome
for an extended meeting that lasted for over seven
The renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were one of the key
issues the two men discussed.
Before their meeting, Kerry thanked both
Netanyahu and Abbas for their courage and for the risks they had taken to
rekindle the negotiations, which had been largely dormant since December
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met 13 times since the end
of July, including a meeting that took place on Wednesday, Kerry said. He added
that US envoy Martin Indyk was in Jerusalem to facilitate those
Israeli officials have spoken of their frustrations over Abbas’s
European tour to urge countries to act diplomatically against Israel,
particularly in ways that prejudge the outcome of the
Following the meeting with Rompuy, Abbas told reporters
that his push for sanctions was not directed against Israel.
“We want to
live alongside Israel and build bridges of peace with it,” Abbas said. “This call
is directed against settlements that were established on the territories of the
occupied State of Palestine and its capital, Jerusalem, after 1967.”
July, the EU issued guidelines
that clarified its policy against providing
grants, prizes or loans to Israeli entities, including nonprofit and educational
institutions, that operate over the pre-1967 lines.
Abbas hailed the EU’s
policy toward settlements and Israeli “practices in occupied Palestinian
territories, including east Jerusalem, the capital of our state,
The Palestinians, he said, want Jerusalem to be open to
followers of the three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its
capital on the 1967 borders that would live in security and peace and stability
next to Israel is the guarantee for world peace and security,” Abbas
He said that he was working with US President Barack Obama and
Kerry to ensure the success of the current peace talks with
“These talks are backed by the Arabs and the EU,” Abbas added.
“Failure of the talks would have serious consequences for the future of peace
and stability in our region and the world.”
He said that despite
“hindrances facing the talks as a result of the policies of the Israeli
government and its measures on the ground, as well as [the] practices of [the]
settlers and the strangling of the Palestinian economy,” the Palestinians would
remain committed to the nine-month timeline Kerry had set for the
In a related development, the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi
newspaper reported Wednesday that the PA leadership had asked France to take
action against French nationals living in settlements.
The paper said the
PA had informed France that hundreds of French citizens currently lived in
“illegal” settlements. The PA leadership demanded that the French government
either strip these French nationals of their citizenship or put pressure on them
to leave the settlements, the paper said.
According to the report, the PA
leadership and prominent Fatah officials have also prepared a list of some 500
international companies that do business with settlements. The Palestinians
intend to send warnings to these companies about their “illegal” work in the
settlements, the paper reported.
Israel has insisted that it has a right
to continue to build in West Bank settlements and that Israel would retain
populated areas of Judea and Samaria in any final-status
Palestinians, however, have insisted that Israel must
relinquish all territory over the pre- 1967 lines.
In his public
statement before the Kerry meeting, Netanyahu did not speak of West Bank
settlements, but addressed what he considers the need for Palestinians to
recognize Israel’s security needs and its identity as the homeland for the
“Peace is premised on mutual recognition of two states for
two peoples – the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people mirrored by the
Jewish state for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said. “I think that’s fundamental
for any peace, but equally it must be a peace that – as President Obama has said
– a peace that Israel can defend by itself, for itself against any conceivable
threat. I think these are the two twin pillars of peace.