Abbas associate: No peace talks before settlement freeze

Sha'ath says US pressuring PA to negotiate with Israel.

January 27, 2010 05:42
2 minute read.
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, left, talks

abbas mitchell 311. (photo credit: AP)

The Palestinian Authority has no intention to succumb to US and Israeli pressure and won't resume peace talks while construction in West Bank settlements continues, Nabil Sha'ath, member of the Fatah Central Council who is closely associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday.

"Israel's threats to invade the Gaza Strip and American pressure on the Palestinian leadership not to miss what they believe is an opportunity, won't drive us to resume the peace talks while settlement construction continues in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem," Sha'ath, a former PA Foreign Minister and one of the architects of the Oslo Accords, said.

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"We believe that any return to the negotiations would be a waste of time and would provide a cover for Israeli settlements," Sha'ath said, adding that the US Administration, through its envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, was exerting heavy pressure on the PA leadership to agree to the resumption of the peace talks with Israel unconditionally.

"They want us to return to the negotiating table without a halt of settlement construction and the Judaization of Jerusalem and the removal of the blockade on the Gaza Strip," he said. "And they are constantly threatening us that we would be missing a second opportunity."

The Fatah official revealed that the US Administration has threatened to veto any resolution on a unilateral declaration of independence that the Palestinians seek at the UN Security Council.

He said that in addition to the US pressure, Israel was also stepping up its measures against the Palestinians by creating new facts on the ground and arresting and deporting international activists who come to the West Bank to protest against the security fence and settlements.

Sha'ath also strongly criticized President Shimon Peres for reportedly warning Abbas not to miss another opportunity and to return to the negotiating table unconditionally. He said that Peres's "threats" did not scare the Palestinians.

"Peres is part of the Israeli leadership that has destroyed the peace process," he charged. "Peres served in the governments of Yitzhak Shamir and Ehud Olmert and is now president under the government of Binyamin Netanyahu. These threats don't scare our people and President Abbas will remain steadfast in the face of the growing pressure."

Sha'ath's remarks came as Abbas aides said that the PA leader was planning to hold consultations with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia about ideas presented by the US Administration to Israel and the Palestinians in order to resume the peace talks.

Nimer Hammad, a senior advisor to Abbas, said that the PA leadership told Mitchell that it would agree to the resumption of the peace talks if Israel stopped settlement construction even for a limited period and accepted the demand to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines.

Hammad told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency that Mitchell made it clear during the talks with Abbas in the past few days that the US views Israel's measures in the settlements and Jerusalem as "illegal." Hammad said that the US emissary talked about the possibility that Israel would take a number of "confidence-building" measures to encourage the Palestinians to return to the talks.

The measures include the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, placing more lands in the West Bank under the exclusive control of the PA and removing checkpoints, Hammad said. He added that while the PA welcomed the new ideas, it rejected the intention to turn them into a condition for resuming the talks with Israel.

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