Abbas, Abdullah, Mubarak meet in Cairo

Trilateral summit focuses on US pressure for direct talks.

311_Fat abbas and mubarak (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_Fat abbas and mubarak
(photo credit: Associated Press)
President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday told President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah that he was under immense pressure from the US administration and other parties to enter into direct talks with Israel, a PA official said.
Reuters indicated that the Quartet is working on a statement that would set the basis for the direct negotiations, which could be issued early next week.
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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton speculated that Abbas might even give a definitive answer with regard to the talks by early next week, according to a letter she wrote which was seen by Reuters.
In Washington Wednesday US State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said the Quartet was likely to issue a statement of support for the talks in the coming days.
Abbas first met with Mubarak in his presidential palace before seeing King Abdullah at Cairo Airport.
In the conversations with those two leaders, Abbas reportedly expressed concern that the US and EU would cut off funds to the PA government if it continued to reject direct negotiations with Israel.
The PA official predicted, however, that the direct talks would be launched at the beginning of October, once Ramadan and the feast of Idl Fitr ends.
The official added that direct talks would occur only if Israel and the US would accept the latest Palestinian proposal to base direct negotiations on the Quartet statement of March 19, 2010. The US administration is currently studying this proposal, the official said.
The declaration, which was published in Moscow, states that negotiations should lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties within 24 months, that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.
It also urged Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to dismantle West Bank outposts erected since March 2001.
The official pointed out that the idea of endorsing the Quartet statement as the basis for direct talks was presented to US envoy George Mitchell during his visit to Ramallah earlier this week. Mitchell met with Netanyahu on Wednesday before leaving Israel.
Earlier, the PA had demanded assurances from the US and Israel that the direct talks be conducted on the basis that the 1967 lines are the official borders of a future Palestinian state.
Netanyahu spent Thursday in meetings in his Tel Aviv office.
The Prime Minister’s Office had no comment with respect to the Palestinian call to base talks on the March 19th Quartet statement.
An anonymous Israeli official said, however, that Netanyahu was ready for the immediate start of direct talks and that preconditions should not be set on those negotiations.
“The Palestinians have been raising different preconditions. As time goes on they have talked about a settlement freeze, then about Jerusalem as a precondition, about continuing where [former prime minister Ehud] Olmert left off, about accepting the ‘67 borders and now they are talking about the Quartet statement. If they want to look for excuses, they can find them. Let us move to direct talks,” the official said.
In the hilltops of Binyamin, settlers complained that Netanyahu was doing too much to bow to Palestinian pressure.
Dressed in costumes as if it were the Purim holiday, they held a small protest rally and march in the Ateret settlement to rail against the new state-of-the art modern Palestinian city that is under construction on the hilltop opposite their community.
The city, which will be called Rawabi, is expected to house more than 40,000 Palestinians once it is completed.
The costumes symbolized their contention that the Palestinians have purposely masked their intentions to unilaterally create a state with projects such as Rawabi.
The only MK to join their protest was MK Arye Eldad (National Union), who didn’t don a costume but said that he wanted to figuratively lift his mask and declare that he, too, believed in a “two-state solution,” but that the Palestinian state should be located in Jordan. He also attacked plans by Netanyahu to hand over 500 dunams of area C to the control of the Palestinian Authority so that they could build a road to Rawabi.
“Even as [Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad is burning settler products, Netanyahu is helping them build a state,” said Eldad.
Separately, the Prime Minister’s Office officially announced that Netanyahu planned to visit Greece next week. It’s the first such visit by an Israeli prime minister.