The Palestinians will withdraw from the planned direct talks with Israel if
construction in the settlements continues, Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday.
Abbas’s threat came in a letter he
dispatched to the members of the Mideast Quartet: the US, Russia, EU and the
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The document was delivered to representatives of the Quartet by chief
PA negotiator Saeb Erekat.
In the letter, Abbas urged the Quartet members
to abide by resolutions of the UN pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the
principles of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, the 2002 road map and the
2002/2007 Arab Peace Initiative.
Abbas’s letter is seen in part as an
attempt to reassure critics that he hasn’t abandoned his conditions for
negotiating directly with Israel.
With the exception of Abbas loyalists
in the PLO and Fatah, all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic
Jihad, have strongly condemned the PA’s decision to hold direct
Hundreds of Palestinian political figures and organizations have
signed a petition warning Abbas against succumbing to American and Israeli
pressure to drop his conditions for direct talks.
“Settlements and peace
are two parallels that don’t meet,” Abbas wrote in his letter to the
“If Israel continues with the settlement construction, we will
withdraw from the talks.”
PA officials in Ramallah said that Washington’s
invitation to conduct direct talks came as a surprise to Abbas and his
Abbas was “enraged” when he heard that Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton was about to issue the invitation without informing him in advance, the
Abbas even considered issuing a public statement
rejecting the US invitation, one official said.
In the end, Abbas and his
aides were persuaded to accept the invitation after receiving four urgent phone
calls from the State Department, another PA official said.
have forced us to drop all our preconditions,” the official complained. “This
makes us look bad in the eyes of our people.”
Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior
Fatah official who also serves as an adviser to Abbas, expressed dismay over
Washington’s failure to invite representatives of all the Quartet members to the
launch of direct talks in Washington early next month.
would have liked to see the Russian president and the UN secretary-general at
the talks, Ahmed said.
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