Abbas: Direct talks possible

PA president suggests 3-month J'lem building freeze to get negotiations going.

mahmoud abbas 311 (photo credit: AP)
mahmoud abbas 311
(photo credit: AP)
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians would be possible in exchange for a three-month settlement freeze which would include Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview with the Guardian published Sunday.
Abbas told the UK paper that he had reached agreement with former prime minister Ehud Olmert on issues beyond those which had been broached during the time of former PA chairman Yasser Arafat and former US president Bill Clinton.
He added that while he did not understand why the US had rescinded its demand that Israel freeze construction in both West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem, he himself would be open to the “proximity talks” suggested by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell.
“If there is any substance in the response from the Israeli side – for example, if they accept the framework of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders ... then there will be progress,” Abbas was quoted as saying.
The PA president stressed that Israel's expansion of settlements into Palestinian territory constituted an alarming step toward what he termed “the one-state solution, which we reject.”
He went on to promise that the Palestinians would not return to armed resistance under his rule, saying that violence would “destroy our territories and our country.” In a fierce counter-argument against rival Palestinian faction Hamas, Abbas stated that despite answering to “outside” influences, even the government in Gaza was “talking about peace and a truce with Israel.”
But even as he promised to work toward quiet in the West Bank and reconciliation between Palestinian leaders, Abbas said that he would carry out his threat of resigning if progress was not made on the Israeli-Palestinian track. “I will have to tell our people there is no hope and no use in my staying in office,” he told the Guardian, hinting that violence could erupt in the void created by his absence.
Abbas's term was recently extended until elections could be held in the Palestinian territories.
During the interview, the Palestinian leader also spoke out in supportof Egypt's construction of an underground metal wall to block tunnelswhereby weapons are smuggled into the Gaza Strip. “I support the wall... Legitimate supplies should be brought through legal crossings,” hesaid.
Abbas made the comments after meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in London on Sunday.