Abbas 'ready' for proximity talks

PA official: US told Palestinians Israel plans partial J'lem freeze.

Abbas speaks to Channel 2 311  (photo credit: Channel 2)
Abbas speaks to Channel 2 311
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s readiness to enter proximity talks with Israel, which he announced during an interview with Channel 2 Monday evening, follows assurances the Palestinians received from US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell that the Israeli government would effectively freeze construction of new homes in some of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods, a PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post.
“[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu has promised the Americans that the Ramat Shlomo housing project won’t take place, at least not in the near future,” the official told the Post. “Netanyahu has also promised to refrain from taking provocative measures in the city, such as publishing new house tenures or demolishing Arab houses under the pretext that they were built without permission.”
The official added that Abbas’s new stance was the result of heavy pressure from the US administration and that the interview had been conducted at the request of the Americans, who advised Abbas to send a “conciliatory” message to Netanyahu and the Israeli public to pave the way for the resumption of the “proximity talks.”
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During the Channel 2 interview, Abbas said he would seek the Arab League’s assent to such talks on May 1, and hoped the league’s decision would be “positive.”
He also indicated possible flexibility on the issue of Netanyahu’s demands for any future Palestinian state to be demilitarized. He said he had agreed with former prime minister Ehud Olmert that a US-commanded NATO force, or similar force, could be deployed to allay Israeli security concerns.
Abbas confirmed a readiness, in principle, for land-swap arrangements that would enable Israel to expand sovereignty to encompass certain major settlements in the West Bank. However, any such territorial swaps would have to be on a “one for one” basis.
Regarding another major issue of dispute, Abbas appeared to indicate acceptance that there would be no mass influx of Palestinian refugees to Israel in the context of the Palestinian demand for a “right of return.” Rather, he said, citing the Arab League peace initiative, there would have to be a solution to the refugee issue that was “just and agreed upon” by both sides.
Abbas also appeared to be at loggerheads with PA Prime MinisterSalam Fayyad over the latter’s decision to unilaterally declare aPalestinian state by August 2010. Abbas said he was opposed to Fayyad’splan because he didn’t believe in unilateral actions.
“We stand by agreements,” Abbas stressed. “There will be no unilateral moves.”
Channel 2 quoted Netanyahu, in response, as being pleased, if Abbas was indeed ready to launch the talks.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.