Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that he was
prepared to resume negotiations with Israel immediately if it agrees to fulfill
its obligations in line with international agreements and the road
Abbas’s statement came during a meeting in Ramallah with US Deputy
Secretary of State James Steinberg and Assistant Secretary of State for Near
Eastern Affairs. Daniel Rubinstein, the US consul-general in Jerusalem,
also attended the meeting.
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Abbas told the US officials that the
government’s refusal to halt construction in the settlements and define clear
terms of reference for the peace process was the reason for the stalled peace
talks, a PA official said.
Abbas also briefed the officials on the latest
developments surrounding the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation accord between
his Fatah faction and Hamas and efforts to establish a new government of
independent technocrats, the PA official said.
Abbas, according to the
official, reassured the US officials that the new PA government’s political
platform would be that of the PLO, adding that the Palestinians remained
committed to the peace process.
The meeting in Ramallah
came amid reports that Hamas and Fatah negotiators were close to an agreement on
the identities of the ministers who would serve in the new PA
The two parties have been holding intensive talks in Cairo since the beginning of the week to discuss ways of implementing the reconciliation pact.
However, the two sides have yet to agree on who
would head the unity government.
Hamas officials were quoted in the past
few days as voicing strong opposition to the reappointment of Salam Fayyad as
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It also remains unclear if Fatah supports Fayyad to be
prime minister of the unity government.
Some Fatah representatives have hinted that Fayyad is Abbas’s preferred candidate for prime minister.
Others, however, have
proposed businessman Mamoun Abu Shahla from the Gaza Strip as prime
Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Fatah delegation to the talks with
Hamas, said on Wednesday that the new government would be established within a
He said Fatah and Hamas have presented the names of 70 candidates
to serve as ministers.
Ahmed was quoted by the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news
agency as saying that the new government would be completely independent.