Abbas: I Don't Want to Declare Unilateral Statehood

PA president says he 'stands by agreements,' is prepared to work with Netanyahu to achieve peace.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday said he opposes the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, in an exclusive interview on Channel 2 news.

Abbas' remarks contradict comments made by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who told Haaretz earlier this month that Palestinians would have an independent state by August 2011.

"We stand by agreements," Abbas said regarding the unilateral declaration of statehood.

In the Channel 2 interview, the Palestinian leader also extended his hand in peace to the Israeli people, asserting that he is prepared to work with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is committed to returning to the negotiating table next month. Abbas said he hopes to get Arab League approval for indirect talks on May 1.

Abbas said it his duty to work with Netanyahu who was "chosen by the Israeli people and elected by the Knesset."

Netanyahu responded by saying he "commends any willingness to resume peace talks."

U.S. special envoy to the Mideast, George Mitchell, was in the region over the weekend in a push to restart indirect talks between the two sides, which are scheduled to resume by mid-May.

Abbas also addressed Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, saying that a building freeze has always been a precondition for talks with Israel.

He insisted in the interview that Palestinians would not be able to force the right of return for Palestinian refugees on Israelis within the context of a peace agreement, but that he seeks a "just solution."

The two sides should abide by what has been outlined in the road map for peace regarding the refugee issue, Abbas said.

Abbas also spoke about captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, saying he opposes the imprisonment of the Israeli soldier just as he opposes the imprisonment of 8,000 Palestinian prisoners.

He added that he has offered for Hamas to transfer Shalit to the Palestinian Authority in order to broker a deal that would be acceptable to both sides.