Mahmoud Abbas what 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
On the eve of the resumption of the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a row has erupted in the Palestinian Authority over who should head the negotiating team.
Sources in Ramallah said that the dispute erupted between Saeb Erekat, the head of the PLO's Negotiations Department, and Nabil Shaath, a former PA foreign minister who is in charge of the "Foreign Affairs Portfolio" in Fatah.
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Meanwhile, Erekat denied reports about a sharp dispute between the Palestinians and Israel over the determining the agenda of the direct talks. He said that the two sides agreed on the agenda of the talks about two weeks ago in Washington.
He said the agenda would include all the final status issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, water and security.
According to the sources, both Erekat and Shaath see themselves as heads of the Palestinian negotiating team. Each one has also asked PA President Mahmoud Abbas to assign him as head of the team.
The rivalry comes as the Palestinians prepare for Tuesday's meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm a-Sheikh with Israel.
Erekat said on Sunday that Abbas had entrusted him with heading the Palestinian delegation to the direct talks. He said that Shaath, whom he described as a "dear brother," would serve as member of the delegation.
Erekat denied reports about a sharp dispute between him and Shaath. He said that the same Palestinian officials who attended the launch of the direct talks in Washington earlier this month would be part of the negotiating team.
Erekat called on the Palestinians to avoid preoccupying themselves with "marginal" issues such as who would head the delegation to the direct talks. "We must focus on the core issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlers and the release of all the Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails," he stressed.
Erekat added that the talks would not make any progress if Israel
decided to end the moratorium on settlement construction later this
Shaath also denied that he and Erekat were involved in a power struggle,
adding that Abbas was the one who would lead the negotiations in
"This is all nonsense," Shaath said. "There is no power struggle whatsoever. We are all united in our position."