Abbas Not Ready to Resume Peace Talks With Israel, Palestinian Officials Say

Palestinian officials said Saturday that statements made by PA President Mahmoud Abbas a day earlier in Paris did not signal he was willing to return to negotiations.

Statements by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, outlining conditions under which he was prepared to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did not mean he was ready to resume peace talks with Israel, Palestinian officials said Saturday.

Abbas had on Friday said, after meeting French President Francois Hollande, that since Israel refused to stop settlement activities and accept the 1967 lines as the borders of the Palestinian state - both of which have both been demanded as conditions to allow negotiations to resume - he would set different standards before any talks with Netanyahu.

The new demands are the release of Palestinian prisoners from jail and implementation of policies that allow weapons to be distributed to Palestinian police.

But Palestinian officials Saturday made clear that this was not a new road to full talks.

"What President Abbas had meant by this was not return to negotiations," said Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"It will be only dialogue to urge Netanyahu to stop settlements, and not negotiations," he said.

Although the demand to allow weapons to reach the Palestinian police is new, the others - stopping settlement activity; accepting the 1967 borders; and releasing prisoners - have been made at various times in the past as a condition for peace talks to resume.

Netanyahu has said he is willing to begin negotiations immediately, but will only do so if there are no Palestinian preconditions for the talks to take place.

Abu Yousef said that the decision not to return to negotiations before Israel stops all settlement activities in the West Bank and accepts the 1967 borders was made by the Palestinian leadership. Therefore, any decision to return to direct negotiations will have to be made by the same leadership.

Presidential Secretary Tayyeb Abdul Rahim, meanwhile, said the Palestinian Authority was considering asking the United Nations General Assembly to upgrade its status from observer to non-member, another reaction to Israeli policy.

"We are going to take our case back to the international body, which was responsible for it when it decided to partition Palestine in 1947 and ask it to shoulder its responsibility for this issue," he said, speaking on behalf of Abbas to an audience celebrating 40 years since the establishment of the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, in Ramallah.

While Abdul Rahim said this will happen "at the right time," Abbas said in Paris that he was consulting with other nations regarding this matter, asking France to help with this effort.

A Palestinian attempt, last September, to obtain full member status of the world body fell apart after the US said it would use its veto when the matter came before the Security Council.

Israel believes the Palestinian bid for UN membership, which in effect would mean recognition of Palestinian statehood, is an attempt to circumvent negotiations.