There will be no peace talks without a complete settlement freeze in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and a limited release of prisoners, a senior adviser of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview published on Wednesday.“The leadership’s position is clear: There will be no return to the negotiations’ table until there is a complete settlement freeze in the Palestinian territories which were occupied in 1967,” Abbas’s adviser for international affairs Nabil Sha’ath told the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi.Sha’ath’s comments come against the background of meetings between US President Donald Trump and Arab leaders this week and before an expected meeting between the American leader and Abbas in the next month.Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordanian King Abdullah and Abbas are sending a unified message on the peace process to the American president, according to Palestinian officials.The Palestinian leadership has consistently stated that a settlement freeze must precede the renewal of negotiations, after the collapse of the last round of US-sponsored peace talks in May 2014.
Abbas told UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in a meeting in early March that Israel “must halt its settlement construction..., if it wants to give the peace process a chance.”Sha’ath added that peace talks are also conditioned on the release of 26 prisoners, known as the “fourth tranche of prisoners,” which were supposed to be released during the last round of peace talks. Israel is reticent to release the fourth tranche because it considers them “high-risk” and the Palestinians are requesting they be released to their homes, all of which are located in Israel.Sha’ath told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview on Wednesday that he does not know if Trump will support Palestinian conditions.“I do not know what he will do, but we will not concede our requirements for renewing negotiations,” Sha’ath said.“We will not sit and talk for the sake of sitting and talking. We want negotiations that have a real chance of achieving a deal.”Sha’ath, however, admitted that he would not be surprised if Trump threw his support behind “something worthwhile.”“Trump is unpredictable. He has two characters – on the one hand, he makes tough statements; and on the other hand, he is a calculating businessman, who calculates costs and revenues and makes careful decisions,” Sha’ath said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes out with something worthwhile.”Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, has traveled to the Middle East twice in the past month.
Nabil Shaath on International Peace Conference in Feb. 2016: Anything is better than US-led Israel and Palestinian peace negotiations