Abbas: Direct Talks Warrant Extension of Construction Freeze

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he found it unreasonable that Israel would freeze construction in the settlements during indirect talks but lift the moratorium during direct negotiations. If the freeze is not extended, the PA will find it hard to continue the peace talks that were relaunched yesterday, he told Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayam.

Abbas met yesterday in Washington with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.

He said the Palestinians did not accept the Israeli proposals for renewed construction in the settlement blocs after the construction freeze expires later this month. He said that if Netanyahu wants to hold serious peace talks, he must extend the moratorium, including in East Jerusalem.

He rejected the notion that negotiations should start from scratch, saying they must continue from where they stopped under the previous Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

Abbas added that the Palestinians would agree to carry out an agreement in stages, like the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. But the PA would not allow the implementation to be spread out over a decade.

The Palestinian leader's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said the Palestinians would not forfeit any of their rights during the negotiations. He warned that a failure in the direct talks may have ramifications for the security situation on the ground and the stability of the entire peace process.

Meanwhile, Israel's ambassador to the United nations, Meiron Reuven, sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the current president of the UN Security Council following Monday's terror attack in the West Bank. The attack underscores Israel's security needs all the more, Reuven wrote.