Erekat unimpressed with new US attitude

Erekat unimpressed with

A complete stop to all settlement construction is required before any peace negotiations can take place, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Saturday. Erekat said the Palestinian Authority "will continue our effort until the American administration will force Israel to renew negotiations based on its Road Map obligations and especially regarding ceasing construction in the settlements, including east Jerusalem." Speaking to AFP, Erekat said the Palestinians hoped negotiations will resume from the point were they halted in December 2008, when the PA held talks with then-prime minister Ehud Olmert. "We want a clear recognition of the two-state solution and the 1967 borders," Erekat said. On Friday, Erekat also said "You cannot have discussions on borders while the territory you want to set up your state on is being eaten up by the settlements." Erekat was responding to the Obama administration's new Mideast peace strategy, which stepped up pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to resume stalled talks by first taking on the tough issues of borders for a Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that dealing with those matters first would eliminate Palestinian concerns about continued construction of Jewish settlements in disputed areas. After a meeting at the State Department, Clinton and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh called for negotiations to begin as soon as possible and be bound by deadlines. "Resolving borders resolves settlements, resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements," Clinton said. "I think we need to lift our sights and instead of being looking down at the trees, we need to look at the forest." Judeh lent support to the new US tack. "If you resolve the question of borders then you automatically resolve not only settlements and Jerusalem but you identify the nature on the ground of the two-state solution and (what) it looks like," Judeh said. Both Clinton and Judeh spoke out against new Israeli housing construction in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their capital, saying it was damaging to the process.