Erekat Meets With U.S. Peace Envoy Over Settlement Construction

Palestinians buoyed by international condemnations of Israel’s plans for 558 new E. Jerusalem apartments.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met on Thursday in Jericho with U.S. Middle East peace talks envoy Martin Indyk, against a backdrop of tension between Israel and the United Sates and criticism in Jerusalem of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The meeting also comes a day after the Jerusalem municipality announced the construction of 558 apartments in East Jerusalem.

No details were made available about the content of the meeting, but it was made clear that the visit was planned as part of Indyk’s shuttle diplomacy and not in response to the construction.

According to a senior Palestinian official, the talks involved the details of the anticipated framework agreement for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and that the Palestinians stressed Israel’s infractions, particularly the announcement of the new housing. The official said no date has been set for Kerry to announce the outlines of the framework agreement. However, the official said the Americans told the Palestinians that the fourth stage of the Palestinian prisoner release would take place as planned in the next few weeks, whether or not an agreement had been presented or signed.

The Palestinian negotiating team was reportedly pleased with some responses, especially from the European Union and France, to Israel’s announcement of continued construction in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians expect an even sharper response from the Quartet, particularly Russia. Palestinian sources said Russia had pledged to the Palestinians in recent meetings in Moscow, Davos and Munich that it would become more involved in the peace process under the Quartet umbrella.

Erekat said Thursday in an interview on Al Jazeera television that the Palestinian response to Israel’s continued construction in East Jerusalem was to join the Geneva Convention, in preparation for declaring the settlements a war crime and bringing Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah promised assistance of millions of shekels to Palestinian villages in the Jordan Valley following this week’s house demolitions by the Israeli army. The money is to go for preparing land for farming and grazing, improving infrastructure and compensation for property losses. Hamdallah also promised that schools and veterinary clinics would be developed in the villages.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat last year. Credit: Daniel Bar-On

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