Abbas aide: Talks only with full settlement freeze

Nabil Shaath quoted as saying PA president wants complete halt to construction before meeting PM.

Abbas waves finger 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas waves finger 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas won't agree to the resumption of peace talks unless Israel freezes all construction work in the settlements, a PA official said on Monday. "President Abbas won't return to the negotiating table unless all settlement activities are stopped and until Israel accepts the two-state solution," said Nabil Sha'ath, member of the Fatah Central Committee and close adviser to Abbas. Sha'ath said that when the Palestinians talk about "settlements," they were also referring to those established in east Jerusalem. He added that the Palestinians were demanding that the settlement freeze remain effective until a permanent peace agreement was reached. Sha'ath said that Abbas was also opposed to the idea of a limited freeze of construction in the settlements. Asked how the Palestinians would respond if US President Barack Obama asked them to agree to the idea, the PA official replied: "We will tell Mr. Obama that we love him, but unfortunately this is not enough to bring about peace." Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Abbas's position regarding the settlements was "very clear." He said that the PA was demanding that construction for "natural growth" in the settlements also be halted as a prerequisite for resuming the peace talks. Erekat said that in any case the PA was insisting that the talks be resumed from the point where they ended under the Olmert government. Asked if the Palestinians would agree to the freezing of settlement construction only in the West Bank, Erekat also said the eastern part of Jerusalem had to be included. "East Jerusalem is an integral part of the West Bank and Gaza Strip," he said. "We're talking about one geographic unit." Erekat said that Abbas had repeatedly made it clear to the Obama administration that the Palestinians would not accept a limited freeze of settlement construction. "This is our position and the US is fully aware of it," he explained. "We won't accept partial solutions and we won't legitimize something that's illegal." Meanwhile, Abbas has asked Qatar to use its good offices with Hamas to persuade the Islamic movement to agree to hold presidential and legislative elections in January. Hamas has insisted that the elections be held only after an agreement is reached with Fatah to end the power struggle between the two parties. Abbas met in Doha earlier this week with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and urged him to exert pressure on Hamas to agree to the elections, a PA official in Ramallah said. Abbas is also expected to visit Libya and Egypt for talks on the same issue, the official added. Also Monday, Hamas said it won't allow newly elected members of the Fatah Central Committee to visit the Gaza Strip. The Fatah officials had been entrusted by Abbas to visit the Gaza Strip for talks with Hamas on ways of ending the crisis. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the Gaza Strip was open to all Palestinians "except those who have collaborated with the Zionist enemy and revolted against the Palestinian constitution and legitimate government."