Erekat: No Unilateral Declaration of Palestinian State

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat tells Turkish state television that Israel is preventing direct peace talks by refusing to halt settlement activity or discuss permanent status issues.

A unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state is "not on the agenda," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Turkish state television channel TRT on Tuesday.

"We declared our independence in 1988," Erekat said. "Now it's up to the international community to declare recognition of our independence."

"Our option is a two-state solution. We have recognized the state of Israel and its right to exist on the 1967 borders. Now it's up to the international community to stand firm and recognize Palestine on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital."

Saeb Erekat
Dan Keinan

The United States and European nations have expressed opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian states.

In February, however, it was reported that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his Spanish counterpart Miguel Moratinos were promoting an initiative by which the European Union would recognize a Palestinian state in 18 months, even before negotiations for a permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were concluded.

Israeli officials conveyed to European officials opposition to the initiative, warning that it would undermine any chance of a successful peace process.

In Tuesday's interview, Erekat accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of obstructing direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Our position is that the key to direct negotiations is in the hand of Mr. Netanyahu," Erekat said. "The minute he stops settlement activities including natural growth in Jerusalem, the minute he agrees to go to permanent status talks, where we left them in December 2008, we'll have direct talks."

"The Israelis have a choice, settlements or peace. They can't have both."

Erekat said that Abbas would meet with U.S. Middle East special envoy George Mitchell on July 17th to be updated on Netanyahu's recent meeting at the White House with U.S. President Barack Obama.

According to Erekat, Palestinian negotiators have submitted a list of their positions on all permanent status issues to Mitchell but have yet to receive a reply from Israel on those positions.