Shaath: Peres canceled Abbas meeting at last minute

Palestinian negotiator says president wasn't able to bring any concessions from Netanyahu to meeting, so he called it off.

nabil shaath 311 (photo credit: BLOOMBERG)
nabil shaath 311
(photo credit: BLOOMBERG)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was on his way to Amman for a meeting with President Shimon Peres when he received a call from the president canceling their meeting, Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said in an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday.
Describing the two presidents as long-time friends, Shaath added that Peres had scheduled the meeting, telling Abbas, "I have something important to tell you and it should open up negotiations."
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At the last minute, however, "Peres called him and said, Mr. Abbas, I don't want to lose my credibility with you, I don't want to lose the trust between us," according to Shaath. The president told Abbas that he was canceling the meeting because he "was not able to get anything worthwhile [to present from Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu."
Netanyahu on Monday denied that he was behind the canceled meeting, saying that reports he stopped Peres en route to Jordan were "incorrect." "Peres acts in full coordination with me – we meet before any trip, and he updates me after," the prime minister said.
Netanyahu said he worked in "full coordination" with Peres, with "transparency and understanding."  He said that previous meetings and conversations Peres has had with Abbas have been with his okay and knowledge.
One diplomatic source said it was "no secret" that Peres plays an important role in the diplomatic process because of his ability to pick up the phone and call Abbas and other Palestinian leaders whenever he feels the need.
Peres reportedly held a detailed meeting last week with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to look for a formula that would forestall the Palestinian statehood recognition bid at the UN in September.
Discussing the Palestinian Authority's refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Shaath said that the demand "is a just a new condition that Mr. Netanyahu started talking about, that he never talked about in 1996 and 1999 when he was prime minister." It would be impossible for the Palestinian people to accept the demand, he explained, for it would jeopardize Palestinians and Muslims living as citizens in Israel. Furthermore, he said, it would "make it impossible to discuss the refugee issue."
Challenged over the feasibility of the Palestinian demand for a right of return, Shaat said that "the right of refugees to return is embodied in United Nations Resolution 194, which was a condition that [former Israeli diplomat] Abba Eban accepted in order to be admitted as a member of the UN."
The issue, he added, was included in peace talks in Madrid and in Oslo. "So it has to be discussed and it has to be negotiated. It can't be dismissed by Netanyahu or by anybody else."
The refugee issue was included as one of six issues in every round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, he added, "It was never dismissed." Shaath said that "there are many Israelis willing to negotiate [the issue]." The only question "is numbers and modality."
Lahav Harkov and Herb Keinon contributed to this report