Report: Abbas interested in restarting limited peace talks

Channel 2: PA President expresses willingness to return to peace talks.

June 24, 2013 21:16
2 minute read.
Mahmoud Abbas

Abbas 521. (photo credit: Marc Israël Sellem )


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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his willingness to resume peace negotiations with Israel for a limited amount of time, Channel 2 reported Monday.

After years of stymied talks and continued efforts to resume the peace process, in particular over the past months by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas reportedly told his associates that he was ready to resume limited direct negotiations with Israel.

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Abbas allegedly conditioned to hold negotiations for a fixed period of time in order to test the seriousness of Netanyahu's intentions to hold such dialogue with the Palestinians.

According to the report, if Abbas does not see the Israeli government as serious to engage in peace talk he will turn to the United Nations.

Coalition party Yesh Atid praised the announcement. "Direct and courageous dialogue is the only way to solve the conflict," a statement from the faction stated.

The announcement came days before Kerry was due to return for his fifth visit to the region, since taking his current post, during which time the Palestinian president was set to speak with Kerry about his conditions for resuming talks, according to the report.

Peace talks broke down in 2010 over Palestinian objections to Israel expanding settlements on occupied land the Palestinians want for a state.

Netanyahu asserted last Thursday that the problem at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the issue that he believes hinders peace, is the Palestinians' inability to accept Israel's right to exist.

Speaking at the closing panel of the President's Conference in Jerusalem, the prime minister repeated calls to the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table without preconditions.

Former Shas chairman MK Eli Yishai warned on Monday following the Channel 2 report, that "if [Abbas] demands preconditions for negotiations, then the future of these negotiations will be written in history books as another diplomatic failure."

One Israel official, who could not confirm the Channel 2 report, said that Israel's policy was clear: it was ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions.

"Up until now the Palestinians have said no, but if they change their position that means it can start immediately," the official said.

The official cautioned that the process would be complicated, and that to succeed both sides will need to be serious and stick to their commitment to the talks.

"Both sides will have to be prepared to stick it out," the official said, "because anyone who thinks there is instant peace, like instant coffee, is deluding themselves."

In recent days concern has emerged in Jerusalem that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may agree to enter the talks, but then leave them shortly afterwards, as he did in September 2010 just a few  weeks after negotiations with Netanyahu began, and as the Palestinians did again in early 2012 when the Palestinian delegation did not continue low level talks with Israeli officials being held in Jordan.

These concerns, according to diplomatic officials, were expressed last Thursday by Netanyahu to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton during their meeting in Jerusalem. According to the officials, Netanyahu pressed the EU not to create any illusions that they will support Abbas and his positions if he comes back to the table, but then simply leaves again.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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