PA: Obama administration 'friendliest' in decades

US Mideast envoy to PA leaders: America wants a quick start and a quick end to peace talks.

Abbas Mitchell 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas Mitchell 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority officials expressed deep satisfaction with the talks they held here on Wednesday with US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell, saying the new administration of President Barack Obama was "one of the friendliest in decades." The officials described the talks as positive, adding that Mitchell displayed understanding for the Palestinian stance. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Mitchell briefed PA President Mahmoud Abbas on the results of his talks earlier this week with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. "The talks today covered were comprehensive and thorough," Erekat said after the meeting with Mitchell in the Mukata "presidential" compound. "We reiterated our commitment to the Road Map, including the principle of one authority and one weapon for the Palestinians and putting an end to incitement by both the Palestinians and Israelis." Erekat said that Abbas also reiterated his demand for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in all the territories captured by Israel in 1967, including east Jerusalem. The Palestinians also made clear to Mitchell that they won't return to the negotiating table unless Netanyahu accepted the two-state solution and froze construction in all the settlements. "These are not merely Palestinian preconditions," Erekat said. "These are obligations that Israel is required to fulfill under the terms of the Road Map." Erekat said that Mitchell informed the PA leaders that Washington was determined to do its utmost to boost the peace process. He quoted the US emissary as saying that the Obama administration wanted a quick start and a quick end to the peace talks. The PA official added that the Palestinians were hoping the US and the other members of the Quartet - Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, would exert pressure on Israel to abide by the Road Map. "We want to resume the peace talks," he said. "But how can we do so when Israel is openly saying that it is against the two-state solution and that it won't stop settlement construction?" During the meeting, the PA leaders also reiterated their refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, saying it was enough to recognize Israel as it was. "We were asked to recognize the state of Israel and this is how it's called by the United Nations," Erekat explained. "But until now no one has said anything about the Jewish character of Israel. As far as we are concerned, there's only the state of Israel and that's all." During the meeting, Abbas also presented Mitchell with several maps showing what the Palestinians say is continued construction in the settlements, as well as IDF checkpoints scattered throughout the West Bank. Abbas also demanded that the US put pressure on Israel to force it to refrain from demolishing illegally-built houses in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Another PA official said that Abbas was extremely satisfied with the meeting. "This administration is very serious about making peace," he said. "As far as we are concerned, the Obama administration seems to be the friendliest we've ever had in Washington." Mitchell said after the talks that Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the establishment of a Palestinian state. "They have made our policy clear - the only viable resolution to this conflict is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states," Mitchell told reporters. "As President Obama said last week, America will not turn its back on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own."