|kerry steps off plane 370.(Photo by: REUTERS)|
PA hails EU decision on W. Bank, e. J'lem as Kerry returns to Amman
By MICHAEL WILNER AND KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Palestinians pleased with EU decision on West Bank settlements; State Department official suggests secretary may focus on Syria.
As US Secretary of State John Kerry returns to the region for another round of shuttle diplomacy, the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday hailed the European Union’s decision not to
include the West Bank in agreements with Israel, calling it a preface for
“halting settlement construction and ending occupation.”
body also called on the international community to take more steps to “stop
Israeli violations and remove obstacles obstructing efforts to revive the peace
The PA went on to reiterate its demands for a full cessation of
settlement construction and the release of Palestinian prisoners as a
precondition for resuming peace talks with Israel.
Mohamed Shtayyeh, a
member of the PA negotiating team with Israel, welcomed the move, and said that
the EU should take additional steps to exert pressure on Israel so that the
peace process would be revived. He explained that the new measures should
include a comprehensive boycott of settlement products and changing the way EU
embassies deal with settlers – a hint that those living beyond the green line
should be subjected to travel restrictions.
PLO Executive Committee
member Hanan Ashrawi, said that the EU statement “constitutes a significant
development in the way the EU countries deal with Israeli
Ashrawi said that the statement would have a positive impact
on peace prospects and should be seen in the context of these countries’ refusal
to recognize the “legitimacy of occupation and settlements.” She said that the
Israeli government, more than previous ones, has been committed to increasing
settlement construction “at the cost of peace.”
The PA’s comments come
ahead of a scheduled meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas and Kerry in Amman on Tuesday.
returned to the Middle East on Monday to brief Arab League officials on his
progress with encouraging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to restart the peace
He is also expected to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah and
Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said,
“[Abbas] is making every possible effort to ensure the success of Kerry’s
Erekat blamed Israel for hindering Kerry’s efforts by pursuing
construction in the settlements and refusing to release Palestinian
“Israel’s continuation of settlement activities, creation of
facts on the ground, refusal to release prisoners, house demolitions, displacing
people and failure to abide by signed agreements are the major obstacle to the
efforts made by Kerry,” Erekat charged.
Shtayyeh said that the
Palestinians welcome Kerry’s efforts and want to see his mission
Shtayyeh too accused Israel of hindering Kerry’s mission by
refusing to halt settlement construction and accept the pre-1967 lines as the
basis for a two-state solution.
He claimed that Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu was not sincere about reaching a two-state solution.
told Kerry that we will return to the negotiating table when Israel proves that
it is serious about stopping settlement construction and releasing prisoners,”
Shtayyeh said. “The goal of the negotiation should be to end the occupation that
began in 1967 and establish an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as
He added that the prisoners issue was at the top of the PA
leadership’s agenda, especially those who were imprisoned before the signing of
the Oslo Accords nearly two decades ago.
In Amman, Kerry will also raise
US concerns over spillover from Syria’s protracted civil war.
State Department official, speaking to the press, suggested the secretary will
likely focus on Syria in meetings with Jordanian leadership “because the Syrian
Opposition Coalition elections just took place and there’s a new Syrian
Nevertheless, US officials insist that Kerry
remains undeterred from his mission of restarting peace talks, ready to brief
the Arab League officials with a substantive progress report.
Department responded on Monday to comments that PLO Ambassador Maen Areikat made
to The Jerusalem Post earlier in the day that Palestinians, Israelis and
Americans alike were awaiting “concrete results” from Kerry’s efforts on Middle
“We have not reached the point where we can say that we, the
Palestinians, are satisfied with the progress of these discussions,” Areikat
However, a State Department official told the Post that Kerry
“would not be going to Amman if he didn’t think he could make
The official added, “We have been clear all along what our
goal is: to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. That is unchanged.”