Abbas Clinton Netanyahu meeting.
(photo credit: GPO)
The talks with Israel still face “major obstacles,” especially because of Israel’s refusal to commit to a comprehensive freeze of settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, a Palestinian official in Ramallah said on Wednesday.
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“The talks are very difficult,” the official told reporters. “So far we can’t talk about any progress.”
The PA's mixed messages about peace talks
The official threatened once again that the Palestinians would suspend their participation in the US-sponsored direct talks if Israel insisted on resuming construction in the settlements and parts of Jerusalem.
His remarks came as Palestinians continued to protest against the PA’s decision to enter direct talks with Israel unconditionally.
Dozens of people demonstrated in Nablus, calling on the PA leadership to withdraw from the talks. The protest was organized by various Palestinian political factions in the West Bank.
Saeb Erekat, head of the PA delegation to the peace talks, reiterated the Palestinians’ rejection of a partial freeze of settlement construction.
He said that the PA continues to insist that the current moratorium on construction, which expires later this month, be renewed and include east Jerusalem.
“We are not setting conditions,” Erekat stressed. “When we say that we want a halt of settlement construction, including natural growth, we are talking about an Israeli obligation that needs to be fulfilled.”
If Israel “chose to continue with any form of settlement construction, the entire peace process would be destroyed,” he warned.
Erekat also accused Israel of carrying out “provocations” by launching
military strikes on the Gaza Strip and arresting Palestinians in the
past few days.
“Israel must refrain from arbitrary and aggressive
measures against the Palestinians,” Erekat said. “This is will boost
the prospects of peace.”
He added that the Palestinians were now
demanding that the issue of borders be the first topic on the
negotiating table. “We want a state with clear borders,” he said. “We
are committed to the 1967 borders.”