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Abbas denies back-channel diplomacy with Netanyahu
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
26/12/2013
PA rejects report of years of secret talks in London between Israeli negotiator, Palestinian president's associate.
 
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday denied that that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have been conducting secret talks.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said that the Palestinians were not conducting any behind-the-scenes negotiations with Israel.

The denial came in response to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, which revealed that Netanyahu and Abbas have been maintaining a secret channel of talks for several years.

According to the report, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu’s confidant, has been travelling to London from time to time and meeting with one of Abbas’s associates.

This back-channel diplomacy includes an exchange of messages and ideas and is aimed at solving problems troubling both sides, the report said.

A source told the paper that Bassel Aqel, a Palestinian businessman living in London, may be Abbas’s representative to the secret talks.

It said that there are three goals to back-channel diplomacy: solving daily problems on the ground; preparing the ground for a major diplomatic breakthrough; and creating an impression among those involved in the secret talks that there is an interest in making political progress while the formal negotiations are deadlocked.

Meanwhile, Chief PLO Negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the PA leadership should apply for membership in 63 international organizations, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), if the Israel government announces plans to build new housing units in settlements.

Erekat was responding to reports according to which the Israeli government is planning to announce new plans for construction in settlements to coincide with the release of more Palestinian prisoners next week.

Referring to the Israeli plans, Erekat said, “We strongly condemn this and consider it damaging for the peace process.”

Erekat said that those who fear the ICC should “stop perpetrating war crimes, including settlement construction, which is a war crime.”
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