'Choose between settlements, peace'

Erekat comments on talks as Mitchell meets Peres, FM.

Erekat 311 (photo credit: AP)
Erekat 311
(photo credit: AP)
Israel must choose between a peace agreement and the settlement enterprise, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Friday as US Middle East envoy George Mitchell conducted yet another round of meetings with officials from Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"Now the Israeli government has a choice, either peace or settlements, and it can't have both," he said, adding that the Palestinian Authority was willing to give the negotiations a chance.
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The Chinese news agency quoted Erekat as saying that Israel must recognize its commitments to previous peace agreements. "Denying and neglecting these commitments and the signed peace treaties were the reasons behind the retreat and the standstill in the Middle East peace process," he reportedly said.
Mitchell meets with Peres, Lieberman
Earlier on Friday, Mitchell held a second round of meetings with Israeli leaders on Friday in a push to launch proximity talks.
President Shimon Peres told Mitchell at their morning meeting in Jerusalem that "the resolution of the security issues at the heart of these negotiations is crucial," calling the barrage of rocket attacks that followed the IDF's withdrawal from Gaza a "sobering lesson." Later Friday morning, Mitchell met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The US envoy was scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday afternoon ahead of Saturday's PLO Executive Committee meeting on authorizing proximity talks.
A second meeting is scheduled for Saturday after the expected authorization, and Mitchell is due to leave the region on Sunday.
On Thursday, Abbas said the US has assured him no “acts ofprovocation” would occur during the indirect talks, which the Palestinian Authority insists includes any Israeli construction beyond the Green Line. Abbas admitted that the PA did not receive any specific assurancesregarding construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.