Peres to EU: Peace talks with Palestinians within 'reach', don't publish settlement guidelines
President voices concern that EU's new policy on settlements would thwart Kerry's progress toward resuming peace process; Labor Chair Yacimovich urges Netanyahu to resume negotiations immediately in light of EU guidelines.
President Shimon Peres on Thursday urged the European Union not to publish its new guidelines regarding Israeli settlements to avoid thwarting the renewal of the peace process, which he said was "within reach" due to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts.
"From the latest information I have, Kerry has succeeded in promoting the chances of opening negotiations," Peres said. "The coming days will be critical, but we are within reach. I believe that the enormous effort is proving fruitful on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side. Both sides are making a supreme effort to overcome the latest obstacles."
Peres' remarks to the media follow a series of intensive talks held on Wednesday and Tuesday in Amman between Kerry, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and a delegation of nine foreign ministers from Arab League countries.
The nine Arab League minister at the conclusion of the meetings gave Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas their full backing to return to the negotiating table. They also praised Kerry’s efforts.
Abbas will convene a special meeting with the Palestinian leadership at 3 P.M. on Thursday to decide whether to resume the talks with Israel.
In his remarks to the media, Peres urged the European Union to consider holding off on its sanctions against Israeli settlements in light of this progress. "Wait if you have decided, make peace the priority," said Peres. "Don't bring forward irresponsible sanctions that will sabotage peace negotiations."
Also Thursday, Knesset opposition leader and Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to use consider the European Union sanctions as an impetus to renew negotiations immediately.
"The European Union document is a painful reminder of national security, economic and strategic threats attached to a peace process freeze," Yacimovich wrote to Netanyahu. "It would be fleeing from responsibility and a lack of leadership to continue passively responding to events instead of initiating them. The present conclusion must be unequivocal: an immediate entry into peace talks with the Palestinians with the real intention of reaching an agreement."
Yacimovich also promised Netanyahu in her letter that the Labor Party would provide its strong backing of his peace talk efforts, even if such talks would cause him political difficulties with other groups.
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