Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat 311 (R).
(photo credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
The Palestinian Authority denied Sunday that its representatives had been lately holding behind-the-scenes talks with Israel.
The denial came in response to a report in Haaretz, which talked about secret and quiet talks between the two sides in recent weeks.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the only contacts between the PA and Israel were over the recent exchange of letters between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
In late April, Erekat met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and handed him a letter from Abbas detailing the PA’s position regarding the resumption of the peace process.
A few weeks later, Netanyahu’s special envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, traveled to Ramallah, where he met with Abbas and relayed to him a letter containing the prime minister’s reply.
The Palestinians have since voiced disappointment over the Israeli response, saying it was “vague” and did not meet the conditions of the PA for reviving the peace talks: a full cessation of settlement construction and recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution, as well as the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Erekat insisted that there has been no change in the PA’s stance toward the resumption of the peace talks and reiterated the demands for a freeze of settlement construction, recognition of the pre-1967 lines and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
He explained that these demands were not preconditions, but “obligations” that Israel was required to fulfill in accordance with international law and agreements.
Erekat also denied a report about an imminent meeting between Abbas and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, who recently joined the coalition as vice premier.
He said that the report was nothing but a “test balloon” to see how the PA would respond.
In response to reports about secret meetings between the PA and Israel, Hamas said that such meetings show that the PA leadership “was still under the illusion that a settlement could be reached with Israel.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called on the PA to halt all meetings with Israel.