A final peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians will not be reached by the end of the nine-month period set for the talks, but an initial framework agreement could be reached, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters on Wednesday according to Palestinian news agency Ma'an.
Stressing that a deal is only possible with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's cooperation, Erekat said the two sides could reach a framework agreement by April 29, the end of the nine-month period, that would "specify the borders, percentage of the [land] swaps, security arrangements, Jerusalem status, refugees" and other core issues.
The PLO negotiator said the Palestinians would be willing to continue negotiations beyond the nine-month period if such a framework agreement is reached.
Following the signing of a framework agreement, Erekat estimated the two
sides could reach a final accord in six to twelve months.
"Once you reach the framework agreement, between that day to reach a comprehensive treaty, on all core issues... you need six to 12 months in the best case," he said.
The Palestinian negotiator said that the fact the talks are being held under the auspices of US Secretary of State John Kerry is what makes the main difference between this round of negotiations and previous attempts at reaching an agreement, asserting that Kerry could lead the two sides to an accord.
Erekat also told reporters that while the Palestinians are willing to agree to gradual Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, recent reports on a US security plan to keep Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for a decade after the signing of the accord were "imaginary" and invented by journalists.
Erekat, who offered his resignation to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month, accused Israel of trying to sabotage the peace talks, adding that Jerusalem's "unreasonable behavior" is what led to his resignation.
While Abbas did not accept Erekat's resignation, the Palestinian negotiator said he hopes the PA president accepts the resignation soon, because he does not want to end his career as a failing negotiator.
On Tuesday, Ma'an reported that Abbas's Fatah party and Hamas were holding talks to form a unity government ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Erekat told reporters that there will be no Palestinian state without the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, and that Hamas was a legitimate political party like any other, adding that the upcoming elections will be a solution to the ongoing conflict between the two factions.
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders