PA, Livni: No Need to Delay J'lem Talks

The heads of the Palestinian negotiating team and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni object to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bid to put negotiations on Jerusalem off until the talks' final stage.

Ahmed Qureia, who heads the Palestinian delegation, yesterday said he was fully authorized to place all core issues on the negotiating table, without exception and without setting priorities.

The head of the PLO's negotiation department, Dr. Saeb Erekat, told Haaretz yesterday it was not possible to discuss certain matters without discussing Jerusalem.

"The border issue cannot advance without addressing Jerusalem's borders," Erekat said.

"As far as we're concerned, Har Homa, Givat Ze'ev and Ma'aleh Adumim are not part of Jerusalem, and Jewish neighborhoods like Ramot and Gilo are settlements for all intents and purposes."

Erekat said the negotiations had not really begun - as the sides waste most of the time on procedural issues, evacuating outposts and suspending settlement.

He denied reports about a secret channel between Vice Premier Haim Ramon and Palestinian businessman Mohammed Rashid. Erekat added that Rashid had not been authorized by anyone to conduct talks.

Livni said it was established in Annapolis that Israel and the Palestinians would conduct negotiations on all the core issues "with no exception."

She wrote this in a letter this week to the head of the Jerusalem city council opposition, Nir Barkat. Livni wrote that the talks are proceeding according to the agreement that "until everything is agreed on - nothing is agreed on."

This means that the order of debates on the core issues is insignificant, as without an understanding on Jerusalem, any understandings reached on other issues, like borders and refugees, are meaningless.

A senior European source told Haaretz that the talks' slow pace and Israel's foot-dragging on its promises to remove roadblocks and evacuate outposts could lead to the PA's collapse in a short time.

He said Arab and European donor states conditioned their aid on free movement of people and merchandise in the Palestinian territories.