Abbas urges settlement freeze during talks with Israel

Abbas urges settlement freeze during talks with Israel

PanARMENIAN.Net - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged the Arab League on Sunday, Dec 9, not to withdraw its 2002 peace initiative as he called instead for renewed negotiations with Israel for six months.

He told the League in Doha he would demand that Israel freeze West Bank settlement construction and Jewish building in east Jerusalem during that time.

Abbas’s comments came in response to statements by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasem al-Thani, who called on the Arabs to reconsider their 2002 peace initiative.

Abbas’s offer marks the first time that he has placed a time-frame on his consistent call for Israel to halt Jewish building over the pre-1967 line since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office in March 2009. They come on the heels of an Israeli announcement that it plans to build thousands of new settler homes, including the development of E1 in the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.

Israel has insisted that direct talks with the Palestinians should be held without preconditions.

Abbas issued new conditions for renewed negotiations with Israel at the Doha meeting in Qatar, less than two weeks after the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinian status to that of non-member observer state.

Negotiations should start from the point where they ended during the era of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, Abbas said.

The negotiations would lead to agreement on the core issues and an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, Abbas told the Arab League.

Abbas and Netanyahu are sharply divided on the issue of the pre-1967 lines, with Israel insisting that any agreement must modify that line to accommodate the settlement blocs. Olmert in contrast had said that a final-status agreement would be based on the pre-1967 line with land swaps.

On Sunday, Abbas told the Arab League that only a full six-month settlement freeze, including Jewish building in east Jerusalem, could jumpstart negotiations.

He told the delegates, “We want to discuss with you a mechanism that would lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian and Arab territories, including Jerusalem, the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and halting settlement construction.”

“If this happens, there could be feasible negotiations. Also, we could return to the point where we stopped during the era of Ehud Olmert’s government, when we put all the final-status issues on the table. We reached many understandings on over these issues,” Abbas added.

Abbas said that the two sides reached understandings on the borders, Jerusalem and the refugees.

The PA will not agree to return to the negotiations from point zero, he stressed.

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