PA minister ambiguous on Palestinian preconditions for peace talks

The Palestinian Authority's Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told Chinese media Monday: "We are ready for negotiations."

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July 18, 2017 12:15
2 minute read.
Netanyahu Abbas

PM Netanyahu and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, 2010. (photo credit: GPO)

 
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The Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki on Monday made ambiguous statements about Palestinian preconditions for reviving peace talks.

In one part of an interview with the Chinese daily Xinhua, Maliki said that the Palestinians’ only precondition for reviving talks is that Israel commit to the two-state solution.

“We are ready to engage in negotiations when Israel announces that it is committed to the two-state solution as the primary and only solution,” Maliki said, speaking from Beijing, where he is accompanying PA President Abbas on a four-day visit.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he supports a two-state solution, but many ministers and members of his government strongly oppose it.

However, in another part of his interview with the Chinese daily, Maliki said that Israel must both back the two-state solution and freeze settlements to renew peace negotiations.

"Return to negotiations is an international demand that Israel must commit to, it must declare its commitment to the two-state solution and end settlement activity in order to return to negotiations,” Maliki said.

Since the collapse of the last round of peace talks in May 2014, the Palestinians have demanded that Israel freeze settlement building and release Palestinian prisoners before restarting negotiations.

But PA President Mahmoud Abbas has – without mentioning preconditions – said on multiple occasions in the past several months that he is ready to meet with Netanyahu.

Abbas, who is slated to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, told Xinhua in an interview published on Sunday that he is open to minor land swaps with Israel in a final peace deal.
Kushner meets with Abbas in bid to renew peace process (credit: REUTERS)

“We say that they must be small percentages and equal in terms of size and quality of land,” Abbas said.

Land swaps refer to exchanges of territory between Israel and the Palestinians in which the two sides would agree to modifications to the 1967 border in a final agreement.

Practically, land swaps would allow Israel to maintain some settlements and the Palestinians to annex some parts of Israel.

According to leaked documents, the Palestinians offered former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a 1.9% swap of land in 2008, in which Israel would be able to keep Gush Etzion and other settlements straddling the Green Line, while the Palestinians would annex various territories in Israel along the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The leaked documents also showed that Olmert offered Abbas a 6.8% exchange of land, in which Israel could keep settlements such as Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim, whereas the Palestinians would gain territories around the West Bank and Gaza.

A previous version of this report did not include Maliki's full remarks. An update was published on July 18.

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