'Talks to focus on final status'

Erekat hopes for progress in continued Mitchell-Abbas meetings.

Erekat 311 (photo credit: AP)
Erekat 311
(photo credit: AP)
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell is scheduled to hold talks in Ramallah on Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, marking the launching of the "proximity talks" with Israel, Chief PA Negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Monday.
Erekat said the the talks would focus on final status issues in general and the issues of borders and security in particular.
He said that the Palestinians are hoping that the talks would lead to the drawing of the future borders between Israel and a Palestinian state.
Erekat did not rule out the possibility that the PA would agree to a tiny land swap with Israel that would keep most of the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the hands of the Palestinians.
Erekat warned that continued construction in the settlements and east Jerusalem would "destroy" the peace negotiations "even before they begin."
He added that according to agreements reached between the PA and the US Administration, core issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, water, borders and prisoners would be resolved on the basis of international law and United Nations resolutions.
"This will eventually lead to ending the Israeli occupation of our land and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state," Erekat said. "Israel is now facing two options: peace or settlements. Israel can't combine the two together."
Several senior PA officials in Ramallah did not seem to share Erekat's optimistic assessment of the proximity talks. Earlier this week, Erekat said in a speech before diplomats, academics and journalists at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv that he was optimistic about the prospects of achieving a breakthrough.
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"I know that many in Palestine and Israel today doubt the possibility that peace can be achieved. I beg to differ," he said. "We don't need to reinvent the wheel. There can be a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps and solutions for the refugees."
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, media advisor to Abbas, said the Palestinians have "given everything and the ball was now in the Israeli court." He said that the credibility of the US Administration, which is trying to relaunch the peace process, was now at stake because of "Israeli obstacles."
Another official said that Abbas was "pessimistic" because he's convinced that the Israeli government does not want peace. "The Americans understand our position and they have actually accepted most of our demands," he said. "But our problem is not with the Americans; it's with Israel."