Palestinians: No Talks Unless Israel Accepts Preconditions

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat calls on Quartet to 'explain, in practical terms' how renewed negotiations will differ from past failed attempts.

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Palestinians will be prepared to resume talks with Israel once the latter freezes all settlement activity and accepts clear frames of reference for the talks, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reaffirmed Wednesday.

"These are not favors that Israel is doing for us. These are its obligations in accordance with international law," Erekat said in a statement issued after he met in Jerusalem with representatives of the Mideast Quartet of international mediators, who began separate talks with both sides Wednesday in another effort to get peace talks going again.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, addressing a Geneva Initiative conference in Tel Aviv on May 16, 2011Credit: Mati Milstein

"We have no problem with dialogue, but it must be meaningful," Erekat said.

He called on the Quartet - the US, Russia, the UN and the EU - "to explain, in practical terms, what measures it will take to ensure that a future round of negotiations will succeed where countless previous rounds have failed."

"Issuing statements and press releases is not enough," he commented.

Erekat's comments after the meeting echoed those of another Palestinian negotiator, Nabil Shaath, who told Voice of Palestine Radio some hours before the parley with the Quartet that Palestinian demands "are very clear and they will not change for any reason."

"The Quartet does not seem to understand that we will not return again to negotiations while the land is being stolen from under our feet."

Direct Israel-Palestinian talks broke off little move than one year ago, when Israel refused to extend a partial, limited 10-month freeze on construction at its West Bank settlements.

The Palestinian leadership says it will not resume negotiations until Israel stops all settlement activities in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and recognizes the lines which existed before the 1967 Middle East War as the borders of the future Palestinian state.

Israel, for its part, says direct negotiations must take place without what it calls Palestinian preconditions.

A document Israel's Foreign Ministry sent Wednesday to foreign embassies in Israel, and made available to the media, accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of "pursuing an increasingly hostile, confrontational and unilateral approach" which "has effectively blocked any possibility for political progress."

"Unfortunately, a realistic appraisal of the situation indicates that attempts to proceed further at this time, towards political understandings, will surely end in failure," the document said.

The current Quartet mission comes after Abbas asked the UN on September 23 to approve Palestinian membership, in effect recognizing Palestinian statehood.

The move was opposed by the US - which said it would veto the request when it came before the Security Council - and Israel, which said a Palestinian state could only come via negotiations, and not via any unilateral steps.

Once the membership request was submitted, the Quartet called for peace talks to resume within a month, but the sides have so far refused to budge from their entrenched positions with the October 23 deadline for talks to start having come and gone.

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