PA: Either Israel Declares It Backs Palestinian State, or No Talks

Top PA negotiator Erekat: International community must pressure Jerusalem to abide by previous agreements.

The chief Palestinian negotiator says that Israel must declare its support for a two-state solution for peace talks to resume.

Saeb Erekat says the international community must pressure Israel to abide by its previous commitments to a two-state solution, halt settlement activity and recognize past agreements signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The newly formed right-wing Israeli government has so far sent mixed messages about how far it will commit to previous agreements and the two-state solution.

Erekat told The Associated Press on Saturday that just as the international community boycotts militant group Hamas, because it doesn't recognize Israel, pressure must be put on the Jewish state to abide by its own commitments.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has made peace talks with Israel's new government conditional on it committing to previous agreements and freezing Jewish settlement growth, aides said on Friday.

Erekat said Abbas conveyed this message directly to the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators - the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.

"It was conveyed to the Quartet that Israel must accept the two-state solution and agreements signed, including Annapolis, and freeze settlement activities, in order to have political negotiations. You cannot have political negotiations without that," Erekat said.

If Israel made such a commitment, Erekat added, Abbas would agree to resume the negotiations immediately.

Western diplomats said that seemed unlikely, at least for the time being.

Israel's new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has declared as invalid the statehood talks launched at a U.S.-sponsored conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007. He says peace efforts with the Palestinians have reached a "dead end" and that Israel should focus on other matters.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been more vague, saying his priority was to focus on economic and security issues instead of negotiating statehood borders, and the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

That could put Netanyahu on a collision course with the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, who called this week for a Palestinian state alongside Israel as outlined in Annapolis, and said both sides needed to make compromises.

Netanyahu and Lieberman also support settlement growth despite U.S. calls for a freeze.

The Quartet's special envoy, former British prime minister Tony Blair, has urged Netanyahu to resume statehood talks in parallel with a push to boost the West Bank economy and to let Palestinians control more of their territory. Abbas's Western-backed government is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Blair also urged Netanyahu to ease Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, which Hamas Islamists seized in June 2007 after routing forces loyal to Abbas's secular Fatah faction.