Fayyad: World Support for Peace Is Meaningless Unless Israel Halts Settlement Expansion

Palestinian PM meets visiting EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, says Israel violating int'l law.

The international community's support for the peace process is meaningless so long as there is no real pressure on Israel to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told visiting European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Friday.

During his meeting with Solana in Ramallah, Fayyad said Israel's continued building in the settlements is a blatant violation of international law, according to Israel Radio.

Solana also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who updated him on the status of peace negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian leader reiterated his opposition to any partial agreement or interim deal with Israel, Israel Radio reported.

Any future agreement must include resolutions to the core issues of the conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, the future borders, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Abbas told Solana.

Israel Radio reported that Abbas conferred by telephone with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday. The Palestinian leader is due in Washington for a meeting with President Bush later this month.

Solana: Israel, PA fumbled peace talks after AnnapolisSolana on Friday issued a harsh criticism of the management of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians since the Annapolis Conference, saying that from the beginning the talks were carried out far too slowly.

In an interview with Haaretz after his arrival Friday for a tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories, Solana expressed doubts over whether a deal could be completed by the end of the year, saying that the longer the sides wait to go forward with talks, the less they are likely to succeed.

"Because time is shorter, it will more difficult to do," Solana said in regard to the talks, adding "I think we have to maintain the momentum."

Solana also expressed his hope that peace talks would go forward regardless, saying that in 2009 "it will be much more complicated to do."

EU mulls partnership talks with SyriaThe European Union is willing to renew talks for a partnership pact with Syria once Damascus takes more steps to meet Western demands, the EU's foreign policy chief said on Friday.

The signing of an already-drafted association accord has been stalled since the assassination three years ago of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Syria has denied assertions the attack was orchestrated from Damascus.

Solana told reporters in Tel Aviv: "The attitude of the EU is to continue with Syria the negotiations as soon as it decides it's clear enough that Syria has changed its position."

Solana did not spell out what the Western demands were, but the EU has expressed concern about preventing weapons smuggling across Syria's borders to the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran.

"There is no doubt that if Syria changes their position in the way we are talking about, and they have done some change in that direction, then we'll consider no doubt," resuming negotiations for the pact, Solana said.

At this point there had not been any decision taken by the EU to resume these talks with Syria, he added.

Solana praised recent indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel, under Turkish mediation, and said they ought to be resumed. Formal negotiations between Israel and Syria stalled in 2000.

"I think it's good. I think the contacts between Israel and Syria, through Turkey, should continue," he said.

Syria said last week it had postponed a further round of talks with Israel after the resignation of Israel's chief negotiator Yoram Turbowicz, who was stepping down as chief of staff for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Olmert, embroiled in a corruption scandal, has pledged to resign once his Kadima party chooses a new leader in a primary election scheduled for next week.