Ban urges sides not to 'waste' talks

PA threatens to derail talks if settlement freeze not extended.

netanyahu abbas shake hands 248 88 (photo credit: )
netanyahu abbas shake hands 248 88
(photo credit: )
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to "waste"  the chance for peace constituted by upcoming talks between Israel and the Palestinians in Washington, AFP reported.
In a UN statement released on Saturday, Ban welcomed the decision by the sides to renew direct talks, stating that he "believes that negotiations are the only way for the parties to resolve all final status issues and he calls upon both sides to show leadership courage, and responsibility to realize the aspirations of both peoples.
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"We should all be aware that this is an opportunity that must not be wasted," the statement read.
Hours after Washington's Friday announcement regarding the imminent launch of direct talks, the PA has said that talks will not proceed if Israel does not extend the settlement construction freeze beyond September 26.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat spoke after a PLO committee meeting on Saturday.
In an earlier reaction to the announcement made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Erekat said Friday that he hoped the Quartet and others would work diligently to ensure the one-year time frame for talks is reached and press Israel to end "provocative acts."
"We hope that the Israeli government would refrain from settlement activities, incursions, siege, closures, and provocative acts like demolishing of homes, deporting people from Jerusalem in order to give this peace process the chance it deserves," Erekat said.
Palestinian Liberation Organization leaders gathered overnight Friday and voted to accept the US invitation, according to senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo, AFP reported.
"The PLO executive committee announces its acceptance of a resumption of direct negotiations with Israel, in accordance with the statement by the international Middle East Quartet and the invitation by the United States," Rabbo said.
The Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia made a statement Friday that provided some of the frameworks sought by the Palestinians.
In endorsing direct talks, the Quartet expressed support for “the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive regional peace as envisaged in the Madrid terms of reference, Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.”
Those documents, though, are filled with configurations that Israel has objected to. According to Israel Radio, the Quartet demands a total commitment by Israel to end settlement building.
While Jerusalem embraced Clinton’s announcement, it has remained silent on the Quartet statement, with which it has reservations.
Instead, the response of the Prime Minister’s Office only mentioned the US invitation for direct talks.
“The prime minister has been calling for direct negotiations for the past year and a half,” his statement said. “He was pleased with the American clarification that the talks would be without preconditions.”
Hamas rejected the US invitation, and said that it considers the "...invitation and the promises included in it empty," according to a statement made by Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri Friday. Zuhri said the announcement is "a new attempt to deceive the Palestinian people and international public opinion."
"The Palestinian people will not feel bound by the results of this misleading invitation," Zuhri told AFP reporters.
"We in the Hamas movement reject the call of the Quartet and the US administration to resume the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and believe that this invitation and its consequences does not commit the Palestinian people," the spokesman said.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are set to commence at the beginning of September and within a year should lead to the resolution of all final status issues, Clinton announced Friday.
Clinton said she had invited Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington on September 2 “to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year.”
She acknowledged that the goal would be a challenging one.
“Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles,” she noted. “The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks. But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.”
Netanyahu and Abbas are expected to first meet individually with US President Barack Obama on September 1, when Obama will also hold bilateral meetings with King Abdullah of Jordan and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, topped off by a dinner for all four that night.
Clinton, who will preside over the trilateral meeting the next day, said that the negotiations themselves would start with no preconditions. They are due to be held in various places to be worked out, including at times in the region itself.
“These negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterized by good faith and a commitment to their success,” Clinton stressed.
Israel has insisted that there not be preconditions to the talks, which has held up Palestinian participation as the latter have made demands ranging from a total settlement freeze, including building over the Green Line in Jerusalem, to talks from where they broke off under the previous Israeli premier to Israel’s agreeing to using the 1967 borders as the basis of negotiations.
Though none of these demands were met, by Clinton’s characterization, the Palestinians did get the short timeframe they have long sought.
Though Netanyahu has said that talks could conclude quickly, Israel has resisted any deadlines on the process. The Palestinians, however, don’t want to see an open-ended interim situation and have long pressed for a brief negotiating period.
JPOST.COM STAFF contributed to this report.