Palestinian Official: We're Ready for Talks With U.S., but Not Israel

Erekat: U.S. plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace irrelevant as long as settlement construction continues.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat arrived in Washington Tuesday, where he is expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other American officials to discuss the first phase of the road map for Mideast peace and the renewal of final-status talks.

But in an interview with Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Ayyam, Erekat - who is is also due to meet with U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones and George Mitchell, the American envoy to the Mideast - said the most important issue is freezing Israeli settlement construction. "There are no interim solutions," he said. "It's not a precondition for negotiations, but an explicit Israeli commitment that they have to meet."

Erekat told the paper there is an American plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, but said it is irrelevant as long as Israel continues building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, adding that all peace talks are currently being held with the Americans, not the Israelis.

He said the second most important issue to be discussed during his visit is the Palestinian request that U.S. President Barack Obama state that the peace process must lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, and that negotiations must include all the final-status issues.

Quartet Mideast envoy Tony Blair said during a visit to Hebron Tuesday that he expects Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a final-status agreement to resume within a few weeks.