Palestinian President says still ready to extend peace talks with Israel

Palestinian President says still ready to extend peace talks with Israel

PanARMENIAN.Net - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he is still ready to extend peace talks with Israel, despite a recent breakdown in the process. But he said Israel must meet several key demands, including freeing Palestinian prisoners and halting construction on Palestinian land, BBC News reported.

Israel this week suspended the talks, demanding the annulment of a unity deal between rival Palestinian factions.

Abbas' Fatah party and Hamas aim to form a unity government within weeks.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, rejects Israel's right to exist and is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S., EU and other countries.

Addressing a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Abbas said: "How can we restart the talks? There's no obstacle to us restarting the talks, but the 30 prisoners need to be released."

He was referring to a final group of Palestinian inmates whose planned release Israel cancelled in March, accusing the Palestinians of reneging on a peace talks pledge not to seek further international recognition.

Abbas also stressed that the Palestinians and Israel must agree on the borders of the future state of Palestine.

"On the table we will present our map; for three months we'll discuss our map. In that period, until the map is agreed upon, all settlement activity must cease completely," he added.

Israel has so far made no public comment on Abbas' remarks.

On Thursday, April 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the BBC that Abbas must choose between continuing with the pact with Hamas or continuing with efforts to secure peace.

Fatah and Hamas have been at odds since Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip during clashes in 2007 and set up a rival government.

"He [Mahmoud Abbas] can have peace with Israel or a pact with Hamas - he can't have both," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged not to abandon its peace efforts with Israel and the Palestinians. However, he admitted that "neither side had political will to make tough decisions" and that there may need to be a pause in the process.

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