Abbas associate: No peace talks before settlement freeze
Sha'ath says US pressuring PA to negotiate with Israel.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
The Palestinian Authority has no intention to succumb to US and Israeli pressure and won't resume peace talks while construction in West Bank settlements continues, Nabil Sha'ath, member of the Fatah Central Council who is closely associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday."Israel's threats to invade the Gaza Strip and American pressure on the Palestinian leadership not to miss what they believe is an opportunity, won't drive us to resume the peace talks while settlement construction continues in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem," Sha'ath, a former PA Foreign Minister and one of the architects of the Oslo Accords, said."We believe that any return to the negotiations would be a waste oftime and would provide a cover for Israeli settlements," Sha'ath said,adding that the US Administration, through its envoy to the MiddleEast, George Mitchell, was exerting heavy pressure on the PA leadershipto agree to the resumption of the peace talks with Israelunconditionally."They want us to return to the negotiating table without a halt ofsettlement construction and the Judaization of Jerusalem and theremoval of the blockade on the Gaza Strip," he said. "And they areconstantly threatening us that we would be missing a secondopportunity."The Fatah official revealed that the US Administration has threatenedto veto any resolution on a unilateral declaration of independence thatthe Palestinians seek at the UN Security Council.He said that in addition to the US pressure, Israel was also steppingup its measures against the Palestinians by creating new facts on theground and arresting and deporting international activists who come tothe West Bank to protest against the security fence and settlements.Sha'ath also strongly criticized President Shimon Peres for reportedlywarning Abbas not to miss another opportunity and to return to thenegotiating table unconditionally. He said that Peres's "threats" didnot scare the Palestinians.Advertisement"Peres is part of the Israeli leadership that has destroyed the peaceprocess," he charged. "Peres served in the governments of YitzhakShamir and Ehud Olmert and is now president under the government ofBinyamin Netanyahu. These threats don't scare our people and PresidentAbbas will remain steadfast in the face of the growing pressure."Sha'ath's remarks came as Abbas aides said that the PA leader wasplanning to hold consultations with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabiaabout ideas presented by the US Administration to Israel and thePalestinians in order to resume the peace talks.Nimer Hammad, a senior advisor to Abbas, said that the PA leadershiptold Mitchell that it would agree to the resumption of the peace talksif Israel stopped settlement construction even for a limited period andaccepted the demand to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines.Hammad told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency that Mitchell made itclear during the talks with Abbas in the past few days that the USviews Israel's measures in the settlements and Jerusalem as "illegal."Hammad said that the US emissary talked about the possibility thatIsrael would take a number of "confidence-building" measures toencourage the Palestinians to return to the talks.The measures include the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israelijails, placing more lands in the West Bank under the exclusive controlof the PA and removing checkpoints, Hammad said. He added that whilethe PA welcomed the new ideas, it rejected the intention to turn theminto a condition for resuming the talks with Israel.
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