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Mideast peace process in crisis

By MOHAMMED MAR’I | ARAB NEWS

Published: Dec 8, 2010 23:20 Updated: Dec 8, 2010 23:20

RAMALLAH, West Bank: A senior Palestinian official said Wednesday that the Palestinians will turn to the United Nations after the US failed to reach an agreement with Israel on a new settlement construction freeze.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, told the Voice of Palestine radio that the Palestinians “must turn to the broader framework of the international community,” referring to the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.

Brazil and Argentina have recognized a Palestinian state on the lands Israel has occupied since the June 1967 war. The move sparked harsh US and Israeli criticism.

Washington announced late Tuesday that it had abandoned efforts to persuade Israel to renew a settlement building moratorium as part of efforts to revive peace talks.

“We received a letter from the American administration expressing its desire to hold separate talks with Israel and the Palestinians over the peace process,” Abed Rabbo said.

“According to the letter, the US wishes to start peace talks with each side separately to discuss the means of getting the peace process out of the impasse and to discuss permanent status issues,” said the PLO official.

However, Abed Rabbo questioned the US announcement. “It’s unclear how the United States plans to succeed where it has so far failed, and it has failed mainly because of the Israeli policy.

“Instead of declaring Israel responsible for the talks’ failure, the US administration is giving the Israelis another opportunity to waste more time by calling for the renewal of the talks,” Abed Rabbo said.

Early Wednesday, a Palestinian official said that Palestinian response to the US announcement will not be sent before a consultative meeting is held with the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League. Nabil Abu Rudainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the official Wafa news agency that Abbas and Arab League Chief Amr Mousa held a telephone conversation on Tuesday night in which they discussed the US letter and the response that should be undertaken by the Arab League.

Moussa said in Cairo that Arab foreign ministers will meet there on Saturday or Sunday at the request of Abbas. Abbas is to discuss the peace process on Thursday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Palestinian ambassador to Cairo, Barakat Al-Farra told the MENA news agency.

Late on Tuesday, US officials admitted top-level efforts to coax Israel into imposing new curbs on West Bank settlement construction had gone nowhere. Without a new freeze, the Palestinians have refused to negotiate, effectively deadlocking direct peace talks that opened Sept. 2 only to run aground just weeks later when building resumed in the settlements.

“We have been pursuing a moratorium as a means to create conditions for a return to meaningful and sustained negotiations,” US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in New York. “After a considerable effort, we have concluded that this does not create a firm basis to work toward our shared goal of a framework agreement.”

Speaking in Athens, Abbas said: “There is no doubt that there is a crisis.”

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Washington’s announcement marked a welcome acknowledgment by President Barack Obama’s administration that freezing construction was not the way to achieve peace.

“We said from the outset that settlements were not the root of the conflict and that it was only a Palestinian excuse for refusing to talk,” Nir Hefetz said.

For more information visit: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article211322.ece

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