Published: Nov 21, 2010 19:21 Updated: Nov 21, 2010 19:26
CAIRO: The Palestinian Authority will not return to peace talks with Israel unless there is a freeze on settlement building that includes East Jerusalem, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday.
Abbas said the Palestinians and Israel had received no official US request for a return to the talks which began in September but stopped three weeks later after Israel refused to extend a freeze on new settlements in the West Bank.
Asked if the Palestinian Authority would agree to resume the talks if a new settlement freeze did not include East Jerusalem, he said, “.. if there is no complete halt to settlements in all of the Palestinian territories including Jerusalem, we will not accept.”
Abbas was speaking to reporters after meeting President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel. Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman were also present.
The United States had proposed an incentive package to Israel aimed at resuming stalled talks. Israel said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had promised it, free of charge, 20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3 billion.
In return, Washington wanted Israel to freeze settlement building in the West Bank for 90 days.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition allies have demanded written confirmation from the United States that the building freeze it wants does not include occupied land in East Jerusalem.
Israel calls East Jerusalem part of its capital — a status not recognized abroad — and Palestinians want it as the capital of a Palestinian state.
“For the past year we are seeing a phenomenon of refusal by Abu Mazen (Abbas) to commit to direct talks and we see him making various excuses in order not to (talk),” Israeli national security adviser Uzi Arad told Israeli television on Saturday.
He said contacts with the United States on the proposed incentives were continuing, including over the F-35s.
“But what was important was that the prime minister has insisted that … it is a last freeze, there will not be another freeze. There will not be any more American requests for more freezes or other limitations,” Arad said.
Palestinian officials have accused Netanyahu of destroying prospects for peace by allowing settlement building to continue on land that Palestinians want for a future state.
Abbas also said it was unacceptable to link the stalled negotiations with a US offer of additional military aid to its Israeli ally.
“It is not just us who want a halt to settlements but also the United States and the world and a big part of Israeli public opinion. Efforts are not being exerted on us … the problem is between the US administration and Israel,” said Abbas.
Abbas said he expected the United States to provide the official request to resume talks “very soon,” adding that the Arab League peace committee and the Palestinian leadership would respond in due course.
The US State Department said on Friday it would be willing to put guarantees for Israel in writing but declined to discuss details.
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