Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat Monday reiterated the Palestinian Authority demands for a full cessation of settlement construction and acceptance of the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution, saying this would pave the way for the resumption of real and serious negotiations between the two sides.
Erekat's comments came on the eve of a planned meeting in Amman with Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho under the auspices of the Quartet members - the US, EU, UN and Russia.
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Hailing King Abdullah of Jordan for hosting Tuesday's talks, Erekat told reporters in Ramallah that the meeting was designed to "commit" Israel to "international legitimacy, including the road map for peace, which calls for a freeze of construction in the settlements.
Erekat urged the Israeli government to take advantage of the "positive
opportunity" provided by the Jordanian monarch by halting activities in
the settlements, accepting the two-state solution on the basis of the
1967 "borders" and releasing Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
The issue of the prisoners will be at the top of the Palestinians'
agenda during the meeting in Jordan, Erekat said. He added that former
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised PA President Mahmoud Abbas that
Israel would free Fatah-affiliated prisoners once a deal is struck with
Hamas in return for IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
The Palestinians, Erekat said, were never opposed to negotiations with
Israel. "We hope the Israeli government will realize the significance of
the Jordanian invitation to hold talks in Amman," he said.
Erekat said the PA has complied with the demand of the Quartet by
presenting "comprehensive positions" on the issues of borders and
Erekat claimed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was seeking to
limit the responsibilities of the PA to security and economy. "This is a
role that we have rejected," he said. "The Palestinian Authority will
work toward moving the Palestinians from occupation to independence."
Erekat also denied that the Palestinian leadership was considering dismantling the PA if the peace process collapsed.
In a related development, several Palestinian groups Monday criticized the PA for agreeing to hold direct talks with Israel.
Hamas called on the PA
to boycott the Amman meeting, arguing that the talks would only benefit
Israel and help it improve its image in the international arena.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine condemned the Amman
talks as a "grave mistake that would encourage occupation to pursue its
practices" against Palestinians.
The Islamic Jihad organization said that the meeting was a waste of time
and would allow Israel to continue creating new facts on the ground.