Abbas in Egypt to discuss peace talks

PA president will seek Arab League's support for his decision not to continue exploratory talks with Israel in Jordan.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Egypt on Saturday, where he is scheduled to consult with the Arab League on the PA’s next step following five rounds of exploratory talks between Israeli and PA negotiators in Jordan in January.
Abbas is set to brief an Arab League committee on the progress of the talks on Sunday.
Palestinian news agency Ma’an quoted Fatah Central Committee member Mahmoud al-Aloul as saying the president will seek the Arab League’s support for his position not to return to direct negotiations with Israel.
Along with PA negotiator Saeb Erekat and PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, Abbas will also brief the Egyptian leadership, including Egyptian military leader Field Marshal Muhammad Tantawi on the Amman talks.
The Palestinians have come under considerable pressure from the US and the EU to continue the preliminary talks, and Quartet envoy Tony Blair is continuing to consult intensively with Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as other leaders in the region, to put together a package that would lead to a continuation of the Jordanian talks.
Blair met with Abbas in Amman on Saturday before the Palestinian leader set out for Cairo. The Quartet envoy’s office said in a statement following the meeting that “Mr. Blair reaffirmed to President Abbas the commitment of the Quartet and the international community to the peace process and the need to launch credible and serious negotiations in order to reach the two-state solution.”
Following the final round of exploratory talks between Erekat and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho in late January, Palestinian leaders blamed Israel for the talks’ failure and said they planned to explore other ways of bringing about a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“In light of the results of the Amman meetings, the Palestinian leadership holds Israel fully responsible for their failure,” the top Palestinian decision-making body, the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement on Monday.
“These meetings exposed Israel’s determination to pursue settlement activity and its rejections of the two-state solution based on the 1967 boundaries,” it added in the statement, issued after a meeting in Ramallah.
Israel has expressed a willingness to resume direct negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions, but a unity agreement that Abbas’s Fatah movement signed with Hamas on Monday in Doha has complicated matters. The agreement calls for the establishment of an interim unity agreement with PA President Mahmoud Abbas replacing Salam Fayyad as the PA’s prime minister.
According to diplomatic officials, Israel has made clear to the international community that a package of largely economic incentives to entice the Palestinians back to the talks that started last month in Jordan will be taken off the table if the Hamas-Fatah deal comes to fruition.
“Israel is not going to come with any confidence-building measures if this agreement is implemented,” one diplomatic official said. A sign of its implementation, he added, would be Fayyad’s replacement.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, meeting in New York on Thursday with the UN ambassadors from 15 countries, said Israel would not accept a Palestinian government with Hamas as a member if it did not accept the international community’s three criteria: that it give up terrorism, recognize Israel and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.