gheit and suleiman_311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Direct peace negotiations are the only way to reach a genuine Middle East peace, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement released Thursday.In a related matter, Israeli sources responded to
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's comments published
Thursday in the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera that plans are under
way to declare an independent Palestinian state next year, by saying
that a Palestinian state is possible, but will only come into being
Earlier on Thursday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated that the Palestinians won’t return to the
negotiating table unless Israel stopped all construction in the
Abbas: Israel been taking unilateral measures for years
Rivlin: 'Settlements are not an obstacle to peace'
Abbas also said that the Palestinians would ask the
US and United Nations Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state
on the 1967 borders if the peace process failed.
Netanyahu was responding to these comments and added that "Israel expects that the Palestinians will stand by their obligations by holding serious direct negotiations, without preconditions."
"Any attempt to bypass direct talks by appealing to international bodies will do nothing to advance the true peace process," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister stated that the two peoples could achieve "a secure and stable peace solely through direct negotiations."
Abbas's comments came as he was speaking to reporters after meeting in Ramallah with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Geith and General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman.
The two Egyptian emissaries came to Ramallah to discuss with Abbas ways of resuming the stalled peace talks with Israel and ending the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas.
“There must be a complete cessation of settlement construction if they want us to return to the negotiations,” Abbas declared after the meeting. “It’s known that Israel has issued many orders for construction in the settlements. It’s building in Jerusalem and in the Palestinian territories and this is unacceptable.”
Abbas accused Jewish settlers of “destroying mosques and schools and cutting trees under looking eyes of the Israeli army.”
He expressed “astonishment” over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s warning to the Palestinians against taking unilateral measures. “His talk about unilateral measures seems strange to me,” Abbas said. “If he means that we may go to the Security Council, this is something that may occur in several months only. But Israel has been making unilateral decisions for decades, especially with regards to settlement construction.”
Abbas said he also rejected Netanyahu’s claim that the Palestinians haven’t fulfilled their obligations under the terms of the Road Map for peace in the Middle East. “I challenge him to show us one commitment that we didn’t meet,” he added. “We also challenge him to tell us if Israel has fulfilled one obligation.”
Abbas reiterated the Palestinians’ commitment to the peace process. “We are still determined that peace can only be achieved through negotiations,” he said.
Abbas said that the Palestinians’ first option was to resume the direct talks with Israel if the construction in the settlements stopped. Other options which would be considered at a later stage include seeking US and UN recognition for an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, he added.
However, Abbas said that the Palestinians’ preferred option at this stage was to return to the negotiating table once the freeze on settlement construction was extended.
Abbas also thanked Egypt for its efforts to achieve reconciliation between his Fatah faction and Hamas. However, he said he did not know at this phase whether there was room for optimism.
Hamas and Fatah negotiators are scheduled to meet next week in yet another bid to solve their dispute.
The Egyptian foreign minister said after the talks that Cairo was in touch with Israel and the US to reach agreement on extending the moratorium on settlement construction. He said that Egypt fully supported the PA position calling for a total cessation of settlement construction so as to pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks.
Although Geith and Suleiman did not come to Jerusalem for meetings on Thursday, on Monday Uzi Arad, the head of the National Security Council, went to Egypt and met with Suleiman regarding ideas on how to re-start the talks.
Arad is also believed to have discussed the wider regional situation, including recent developments in Gaza and Lebanon. Egypt, as well as Saudi Arabia, is extremely concerned – according to diplomatic officials – about the inroads Iran is making in both locations.
"If they chose the unilateral option, we
have unilateral options as well," one official said, without
elaborating. He said that Yasser Arafat declared a state back in 1988,
which was indeed recognized by nearly 100 countries, but did not
substantively change anything for the Palestinians.
"The only way is through negotiations," he said.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, meanwhile, stated that he had no ambitions
to succeed Abbas. He said he was also opposed to the idea of
dismantling the PA if the peace talks with Israel fail.
Palestinian Authority is the most important step in the project of
building an independent Palestinian state,” Fayyad told the London-based
Fayyad denied allegations that he had been
depriving Fatah of financial aid. “I haven’t seen anything from Fatah
but support and cooperation,” he stressed. “I have a detailed and
in-depth relationship with Fatah, which is the movement of the
Palestinian people and not just a faction belonging to its official
Fayyad said he also had good and warm relations with
Abbas, “the president of all of us and the commander-in-chief of our
Fayyad said that his ambition was to “celebrate in
Jerusalem with the Palestinian people the establishment of an
independent Palestinian state. I have no other ambitions beyond that.”
defended his government as an elected body and dismissed charges of
betraying the Palestinians. “My government is the government of the
Palestinian people and I was elected and was and still am a member of
the Palestinian Legislative Council,” he said.
Fayyad said that
his government was also investing in various projects in the Gaza Strip,
which has been under the control of Hamas since 2007. He revealed that
in the last three years his government, in cooperation with
international organizations, spent approximately 260 million in the Gaza
The PA prime minister also disclosed that he has been in
touch with Hamas in a bid to end the power struggle between the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. “I certainly have personal relations with many of
them,” he said. “They are living amongst us and I worked with them in
the national unity government when I was finance minister. I also worked
with them as member of the Palestinian parliament."