(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ousted Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) from his post as the chief of the team negotiating with Israel due to his inflexible positions and has replaced him with Saeb Erekat, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat reported Tuesday.
The paper quoted senior Palestinian sources who said that Abbas's advisers were accusing Qurei of expressing his own personal opinions during negotiations with Israel. In September 2008, an argument erupted between the two after Qurei "refused to relay to Abbas an agreement proposal from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert," the sources said.
"There was a possibility that the agreement would have been presented to then-US president George Bush so that he could announce it, but Qurei refused and would not go to the US with Abbas," they added.
The paper said that the US had been giving Qurei the cold shoulder since September and accusing him of stubbornness. Israel has also been critical of Qurei for similar reasons.
Erekat was quoted by the paper as confirming the details of the report.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, the Palestinian Authority would not confirm that Qurei had been removed.
Sources close to Abbas told the paper that Qurei was still charged with handling the final-status negotiations, while Erekat was handling talks pertaining to daily life in the territories. The sources said that PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad was in charge of the implementation of the road map plan.
Qurei, a former PA prime minister, headed a Fatah delegation to Cairo to discuss reconciliation with Hamas over the weekend. He is considered a possible successor to Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.