nabil shaath 311.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was on his way to Amman
for a meeting with President Shimon Peres when he received a call from
the president canceling their meeting, Palestinian negotiator
Nabil Shaath said in an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday.
the two presidents as long-time friends, Shaath added that Peres had
scheduled the meeting, telling Abbas, "I have something important to
tell you and it should open up negotiations."
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the last minute, however, "Peres called him and said, Mr. Abbas, I
don't want to lose my credibility with you, I don't want to lose the
trust between us," according to Shaath. The president told Abbas that he was canceling the
meeting because he "was not able to get anything worthwhile [to present
from Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu."
Netanyahu on Monday
denied that he was behind the canceled meeting, saying that reports he
stopped Peres en route to Jordan were "incorrect." "Peres acts in full
coordination with me – we meet before any trip, and he updates me
after," the prime minister said.
Netanyahu said he worked in "full coordination" with Peres, with
"transparency and understanding." He said that previous meetings and
conversations Peres has had with Abbas have been with his okay and
One diplomatic source said it was "no secret" that Peres plays an
important role in the diplomatic process because of his ability to pick
up the phone and call Abbas and other Palestinian leaders whenever he
feels the need.
Peres reportedly held a detailed meeting last week with Palestinian
negotiator Saeb Erekat to look for a formula that would forestall the
Palestinian statehood recognition bid at the UN in September.
the Palestinian Authority's refusal to recognize Israel as a
Jewish state, Shaath said that the demand "is a just a new condition
that Mr. Netanyahu started talking about, that he never talked about in
1996 and 1999 when he was prime minister." It would be impossible for
the Palestinian people to accept the demand, he explained, for it would
jeopardize Palestinians and Muslims living as citizens in Israel.
Furthermore, he said, it would "make it impossible to discuss the
Challenged over the feasibility of the Palestinian demand for a right
of return, Shaat said that "the right of refugees to return is embodied
in United Nations Resolution 194, which was a condition that [former
Israeli diplomat] Abba Eban accepted in order to be admitted as a member
of the UN."
The issue, he added, was included in peace talks in Madrid and in Oslo.
"So it has to be discussed and it has to be negotiated. It can't be
dismissed by Netanyahu or by anybody else."
The refugee issue was included as one of six issues in every round of
negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, he added, "It was
never dismissed." Shaath said that "there are many Israelis willing to
negotiate [the issue]." The only question "is numbers and modality."
Lahav Harkov and Herb Keinon contributed to this report
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