Erekat says Israel must stop settlements

Feb. 4, 2013 at 6:27 AM
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Palestinians will not return to peace talks until Israel halts all of its construction in settlements, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

Palestinians will not "repeat the lunacy of returning to the negotiations while Israel is not fulfilling its obligations," The Jerusalem Post quoted Erekat as saying Sunday.

Expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are a major issue in efforts to resume peace talks.

"These are not Palestinian conditions but obligations that Israel is required to fulfill," Erekat said when asked to comment on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's call Saturday for a return to negotiations without preconditions.

Erekat said the Palestinian leadership remains committed to peace.

Newly chosen U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas during the weekend and told them the United States views the peace process as a top priority, The Post said. Earlier Kerry also spoke with President Shimon Peres.

A U.S. State Department release said Netanyahu updated Kerry on his efforts to form a new government. The release said Kerry "underscored his personal commitment and that of President Obama to support Israel's security and to pursue a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians."

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