Israel, PA blame each other for stalling talks

Abbas Settlement constr

Israel and the Palestinian Authority continued to squabble Saturday over which side was to blame for the current stagnation in peace talks. Hours before the White House announced that US President Barack Obama would meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Palestinian preconditions for resuming negotiations were the main impediment to the peace process. The statement came in response to comments made by Abbas earlier, in which he blamed Israel for the setback. "The Palestinian Authority is preventing the resumption of the peace process by setting preconditions, conditions that it did not set for previous Israeli governments," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levi said in a statement. "Since the government was formed five months ago, Israel has repeatedly expressed its willingness to meet with the Palestinian Authority and resume the peace negotiations without preconditions," he added. "All sides should put aside preconditions and meet in order to advance peace," the statement concluded. According to Israel Radio, Abbas, following his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Saturday, said that progress on the matter was unlikely to be achieved until George Mitchell, the US Mideast envoy, returned to the region after the upcoming UN General Assembly gathering. In his latest visit this week, Mitchell, who met repeatedly with Netanyahu and Abbas, failed to secure an agreement which would pave the way to a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. On Friday, Saeb Erekat, the lead negotiator for the Palestinians, was quoted by Israel Radio as saying the United States wanted both a tripartite meeting between Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas, and a situation where Israel could continue to build settlements, but would not get its wish. It was not clear how the issue was eventually settled. The key disputes are over West Bank settlement expansion and whether peace talks should begin where they left off.