Abbas: No talks if no settlement freeze

Abbas No talks without

abbas announcement 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
abbas announcement 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestinian Authority leadership on Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death by emphasizing that it won't resume peace talks with Israel until all construction work in the settlements is halted. PA officials also repeated the canard that Arafat had died after being poisoned by Israel. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas banned memorial ceremonies for Arafat that had been planned by Fatah. "We can't return to the negotiations [with Israel] without a full cessation of settlement construction, including Jerusalem and natural growth," Abbas said in a speech at the Mukata "presidential" compound, the site of Arafat's tomb. "We also want an urgent solution to the problem of the refugees. Our demands are not pre-conditions, because all what we are talking about is mentioned in the Road Map. But those who don't want peace are creating obstacles on the road to peace." Abbas accused Israel of violating international laws, saying it was acting as a country that is above the law. The international community, he said, must force Israel to stop its transgressions, comply with international laws and end its occupation of Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem. Abbas added that the Palestinians were the only party to fulfill its obligations under the terms of the Road Map. "We don't want to regret having done so," he said. "We want everyone to know that we are committed to international laws." He said that while the Palestinians have given peace a "precious opportunity," Israel was continuing to "steal land, Judaize Jerusalem, dig under the Aqsa Mosque and arrest our youth." Abbas said that despite his refusal to return to the negotiating table at this phase, "peace remains our strategic option." Abbas declared that the Palestinian "revolution" was the most difficult and longest and perhaps the last one. "In the end, we will achieve our goals," he vowed. "In the end, we will see the light at the end of the tunnel. We won't lose hope and we won't allow desperation to infiltrate our souls." The PA leader said that he was still interested in patching up his differences with Hamas. "We want reconciliation and we want t reunite our people and homeland," he said. "Hamas exists and it will stay. Hamas came through elections and now we are offering Hamas elections once again." Referring to his decision last week not to run for another term in a new election, Abbas said: "I don't want to talk again about my desire not to run in the election. But I want to say that there are other options that I will take in accordance with the developments." Abbas said that a commission of inquiry was still looking into the causes of Arafat's "mysterious" death. The commission, he said, was continuing to collect evidence and assess what it has already gathered to reach the truth. Abbas loyalists exploited the anniversary events to enlist support for the PA president. Senior PA officials who delivered speeches at various rallies in the West Bank hailed Abbas as a leader who has refused to succumb to US and Israeli pressure, especially with regards to the resumption of peace talks with Israel. One of them, Nasser al-Qidweh, a nephew of Arafat, told the rally in Ramallah that all Palestinians "stood behind President Abbas and backed him." He said that Abbas remained committed to the aspirations and rights of the Palestinians despite US and Israeli pressure. Al-Qidweh, who also heads the commission of inquiry into Arafat's death, repeated the claim that his uncle had been poisoned to death. "Israel bears the responsibility for the elimination of Yasser Arafat because it had besieged and isolated him," he continued. "Israel also took a decision to eliminate him and then carried it out. Arafat died of poison on the way to freedom and independence." In the Gaza Strip, Hamas security forces arrested dozens of Fatah activists to prevent them from holding rallies to commemorate Arafat. Among those taken into custody were many of Fatah's senior officials in the Gaza Strip. Fahmi Za'areer, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, strongly condemned the Hamas ban, noting that this was the third time that the movement had prevented Palestinians from marking the anniversary of Arafat's death.