Erekat: Settlement construction in the way of breakthrough on peace talks

Top Fatah officials in the West Bank say Kerry's failure to move talks forward shows Israel does not want peace.

June 30, 2013 21:40
3 minute read.
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) shakes hands with Saeb Erekat, April 2013.

Kerry and Erekat shaking hands USE THIS ONE 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Sunday blamed Israeli "intransigence" for the failure of US Secretary of State John Kerry's effort to revive peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

The officials said that the Israeli government's refusal to stop construction in the settlements and some neighborhoods in east Jerusalem was one of the reasons behind the failure of Kerry's latest mission.

"Israel is placing 930 obstacles in the face of John Kerry," Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said, referring to plans to build 930 new housing units in Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood. "This, at a time when Israel is accusing us of setting conditions for the resumption of the peace talks."

Erekat was speaking to reporters shortly after Kerry met in Ramallah with PA President Mahmoud Abbas -  the third meeting of its kind between the two since last Friday.

"We don't have pre-conditions for the resumption of the negotiations," Erekat said. "There are obligations that Israel should fulfill - halting settlement construction, accepting the principle of the two-state solution and releasing prisoners imprisoned before the end of 1994."

Noting that Kerry's talks with the Palestinians were "positive and thorough," Erekat accused the Israeli government of setting conditions, such as reviving the peace talks while construction in the settlements continues. "This is the real condition that [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu set," he claimed.

Erekat said that Kerry failed to achieve a breakthrough "to salvage the peace process and revive the peace talks."

He said that had there been a breakthrough, it would have been announced on Sunday by Abbas and Kerry. "But there are still issues that need to be resolved," Erekat added.

He said that "no one benefits from the success of Kerry's mission as the Palestinians, and no one loses from its failure as the Palestinians."

Erekat said that discussions to revive the peace process would continue with US diplomats who will stay in the region to follow up on Kerry's efforts.

"A breakthrough will be achieved once Israel abides by its commitments in line with the signed agreements," he said. The Palestinians, he said, are exerting every possible effort tot ensure the success of Kerry's efforts.

Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, said that the PA president reiterated during his meetings with Kerry the Palestinian demand for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Senior Fatah officials Azam al-Ahmed and Mahmoud al-Aloul lashed out at the Israeli government, holding it fully responsible for the failure of Kerry's mission. The two said that Kerry's failure to achieve a breakthrough shows that the Israeli government is not interested in peace.

"This is a government of settlers," al-Ahmed said. "This government does not want to establish a Palestinian state, as some of its ministers have openly stated."

PLO official Tayseer Khaled said that Israel's position toward the resumption of the peace process remains unchanged. "Israel wants us to return to the negotiating table unconditionally," he said. "This is impossible while Israel continues to steal our land and displace our people."

Khaled emphasized that the Palestinians were determined not to resume the peace talks unless Israel halted all settlement activities, recognized the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two state solution and released Palestinian prisoners.

"Kerry also wants the Palestinians to resume the talks unconditionally," the PLO official said. "However, the gap between the two sides remains as wide as ever. The US Administration's position is closer to the Israeli stance."

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