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(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority officials said on Wednesday that they had been "surprised" to hear about US President Barack Obama's new peace plan from the Israeli media, noting that Washington had not informed the PA leadership about the initiative.
The officials said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is scheduled to visit Washington later this month, would seek clarifications from Obama about the peace plan published in Yediot Aharonot and Ma'ariv.
One PA official said Abbas and his aides were currently studying the plan, which, he added, included "several positive points." The official stressed, however, that some of the proposals mentioned in the plan were completely unacceptable to the Palestinians.
These proposals, he said, included the talk about resettling Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, swapping lands between the future Palestinian state and Israel, creating a demilitarized state and granting the Old City of Jerusalem the status of an international city.
"The Palestinian position on these issues is very clear," explained another PA official. "We insist on the right of return for all refugees on the basis of United Nations resolution 194, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with all of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as its capital."
The official said the PA had, in the past, rejected the idea of establishing a demilitarized state and swapping land with Israel.
"The only way to achieve real and lasting peace is by forcing Israel to withdraw from all the territories that were occupied in 1967," he said.
Sabri Saydam, an adviser to Abbas, said that the plan published in the Israeli newspapers was apparently aimed at "creating confusion" on the eve of Abbas's visit to Washington. He said this was the first time that the Palestinians were hearing that the Obama administration wanted them to relinquish the right of return for the refugees and create a demilitarized state.
"We will wait until President Obama publishes his plan in a speech from Cairo next month," he said. "Until then, we will relate to all of what's published as media speculation."
PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad called on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to force it to accept the two-state solution.
Fayad did not comment directly on the reports about Obama's peace plan. However, he said the Palestinians were determined to establish their state on all the territories occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem, the future capital of the state.
Fayad, who chaired the first meeting of his new cabinet, said there would be no peace unless Israel halted settlement construction, stopped its efforts to Judaize Jerusalem, and lifted the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.
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