(photo credit: AP)
The PLO Executive Committee on Saturday gave a green light to US–mediated proximity talks with Israel.
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell was scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Saturday following the PLO meeting. Mitchell is set to return to Washington on Sunday.
PLO general secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters the Palestinians decided to engage Israel, even if indirectly, because of a number of US assurances.
"The decision is based on guarantees and assurances we have received regarding the settlement activities and the necessity to halt them ... and that the US will take a decisive position toward any provocations that influence the path of negotiations," he said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak welcomed the Palestinian endorsement of indirect talks, saying that if both sides act in a responsible manner and are willing to make brave decisions, "it will be possible to get to direct negotiations and a breakthrough toward an agreement."
In Gaza, Hamas denounced the PLO decision as a "stab in the back of our people" and said the PLO does not represent the Palestinians. Negotiations will be futile and provide cover to Israel to build more settlements, the group said in a statement.
Proximity’s silver lining?Landau: PA
already planning proximity
talks four months
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Friday that Israel must choose between a peace agreement and the settlement enterprise.
"Now the Israeli government has a choice, either peace or settlements, and it can't have both," he said, adding that the PA was willing to give the negotiations a chance.
Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Erekat as saying that Israel must recognize its commitments to previous peace agreements. "Denying and neglecting these commitments and the signed peace treaties were the reasons behind the retreat and the standstill in the Middle East peace process," he reportedly said.
On Thursday, Abbas said the US has assured him no “acts of provocation”
would occur during the indirect talks, which the Palestinian Authority
insists includes any Israeli construction beyond the Green Line. Abbas
admitted that the PA did not receive any specific assurances regarding
construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
Thursday, Abbas said
the US has assured him no “acts of
provocation” would occur
during the indirect talks, which the
Palestinian Authority insists includes any Israeli construction beyond
the Green Line. Abbas admitted that the PA did not receive any specific
regarding construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this