Abbas rejects resignation of Palestinian peace negotiator Erekat

PA president tells AFP that regardless of what happens on the ground, talks will continue for the full nine months.

PA's Erekat, Israel's Livni, and US' Kerry and Indyk 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
PA's Erekat, Israel's Livni, and US' Kerry and Indyk 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected the resignation of chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Palestinian sources told the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper on Sunday that Abbas asked Erekat to remain in his position as head of the Palestinian negotiating team with Israel.
However, if Erekat insists on his resignation, Abbas will search for someone else to head the negotiating team, the sources said.
Muhammad Shtayyeh, another member of the negotiating team, is determined not to withdraw his resignation, according to a report in the London-based daily Al-Hayat.
The two negotiators tendered their resignation to Abbas two weeks ago in protest against continued construction in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Despite the resignation, the PLO announced last week that the peace talks with Israel would continue until the end of the nine-month period set by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Al-Hayat quoted Palestinian sources in Ramallah as saying that some Palestinian officials had proposed that Abbas begin efforts to join the United Nations and other international agencies and organizations.
Other officials, however, expressed fear that such a move would provide Israel with an excuse not to release the third batch of Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinians expect Israel to release another 50 prisoners as part of a US-sponsored agreement to relaunch the peace talks.
The officials said that it would be better to wait until the end of the peace talks in April 2014 before applying for membership in the UN and other world bodies.
Sources close to Abbas warned that pulling out of the peace talks at this stage would invite heavy pressure on the PA leadership from the Americans and other international parties.
The sources said that a last minute phone call from Kerry last week prevented Abbas from declaring that the Palestinians were walking out of the talks in protest against plans to build housing units in settlements and east Jerusalem neighborhoods.
A PA official said that Abbas would urge Kerry during their meeting this week to “step up pressure” on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to change his policies regarding settlement construction.
The official said that Abbas would make it clear to Kerry that Netanyahu’s policies severely undermine the credibility of the PA and the entire peace process.
In a related development, Hamas called on the PA negotiators to “effectively” resign.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement: “We call on the negotiators to stop playing games and to resign effectively and immediately.”