Palestinians to Launch 6-month Initiative to Restart Talks With Israel

Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat says initiative, to be launched next month in cooperation with international officials, conditioned on demand to release prisoners, call to halt settlement construction.

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Haaretz
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Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday that the Palestinian Authority plans to launch a new initiative to renew negotiations with Israel, which would include the release of prisoners and a halt to settlement construction.

Speaking on Ramallah-based Voice of Palestine radio, Erekat said that he will be initiating the move in cooperation with international officials next month, in an effort to renew talks with Israel over a final status solution.

Erekat said the initiative includes the resumption of negotiations from where they were left off, with an insistence on ending the occupation. Erekat emphasized that the Palestinian leadership has allotted solely six months for the initiative.

After the UN General Assembly's vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state last month, Israel immediately announced that in response for what it deemed the "unilateral" move, it will move ahead with the construction of 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as with plans to build in the contested E-1 corridor, which links Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the settlement construction plans, specifically those in E-1, a "red line."

Israel and European states have been embroiled in an unprecedented diplomatic crisis since the plans were announced. Several European countries, including Britain, Germany and France, have been putting heavy diplomatic pressure on Israel to reverse its decision and are considering diplomatic steps against it.

The Obama Administration has also condemned the move. "We reiterate our long-standing opposition to Israeli settlement activity and East Jerusalem construction," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters last week.

Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been at a stalemate since 2010.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the Arab Peace Initiative Committee Meeting in Doha December 9, 2012. Credit: Reuters

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