Abbas praises Kerry, says window for peace deal closing

Diplomatic sources tell 'Post' Abbas considering calling a meeting at UN to consider how to move non-member status to next level.

Kerry and Abbas 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kerry and Abbas 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sounded upbeat on Tuesday in his first public comments on the diplomatic process since US Secretary of State John Kerry’s intensive shuttle diplomacy over the weekend, saying he was “optimistic” about Kerry’s efforts.
“We are optimistic because Kerry is serious and determined to achieve a solution,” Abbas told reporters after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta in Ramallah.
“We hope the day will come soon when we would be able to return to the negotiating table and discuss the basic issues between us.”
If that did not happen, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post, Abbas was considering calling a meeting at the UN in September of all 138 countries who supported his bid at the UN last year for non-member state status, to consider how to move that resolution to the next level.
Abbas said that his talks with Kerry did not only deal with the resumption of the peace talks, but also various issues concerning Palestinians and Israelis.
Abbas said that Kerry presented some good and constructive ideas. However, he added, the Palestinians still need “additional clarifications and explanations” in order to return to the talks.
Kerry has promised to return to the region within a week, Abbas added.
He said that there was no need for him and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to meet “in a tent.”
“We could meet either in my home or his home,” Abbas said. “There is no reason why we should not meet at any time.”
Netanyahu has said repeatedly over the last few days that he is willing to meet Abbas in a “peace tent” and sit there until “white smoke” comes out.
Abbas reiterated the Palestinians’ keenness for peace, saying “They are our neighbors and we recognize them as such. We must live together in security and stability.”
One Israeli official, asked for his response to Abbas’ upbeat comments, said Kerry was engaged in a “very serious effort, and for the Palestinians to say no – especially when the Europeans are supporting the initiative – won’t be easy for them.”
Meanwhile, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat urged the Israeli government to fulfill its obligations toward the peace process by halting construction in settlements and releasing Palestinian prisoners. He also urged the Israeli government to accept the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
Erekat’s remarks came during a series of meetings he held Tuesday with diplomats from France, Germany, China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Japan.
“How can Kerry’s efforts succeed when the Israeli government announces plans to build 930 housing units in Har Homa?” Erekat asked.
He also noted that statements by some Israeli ministers against a Palestinian state had a negative impact on Kerry’s mission.
Diplomatic officials said that the discussions between Israel and the Palestinians over the terms of reference for the negotiations are continuing.
Among the formulas being discussed would be Israel concurring to an American reference to the 1967 lines as the terms of reference for the negotiations, if the Palestinians accept an Israeli settlement freeze only beyond the security fence, a move that would imply recognition that Israel would hold on to the major settlement blocs.