Abbas sets out plan to resume talks

Dec. 10, 2012 at 7:50 AM
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DOHA, Qatar, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- The Palestinian Authority has a new plan to restart talks with Israel that includes a call to end settlement building, the lead Palestinian negotiator said.

Speaking during a radio interview Monday with Voice of Palestine radio, based in Ramallah, Saeb Erekat said he would start the initiative next month with international officials in an attempt to renew talks with Israel over a status solution, Haaretz reported.

Erekat said the initiative includes resumption of negotiations, along with demands to end the occupation that include releasing Palestinian prisoners and stopping settlement construction.

Erekat said Palestinian leadership allotted six months for the initiative, the Israeli newspaper said.

After the U.N. General Assembly approved a Palestinian request to be a non-member observer state last month, Israel responded to what it considered the "unilateral" move by saying it would proceed with the construction of 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as in the contested E-1 corridor that links Jerusalem and the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he considers the settlement construction plans, specifically those in E-1, a "red line."

Israel's construction plans have drawn criticism from European leaders -- including British, German and French -- who have been pressuring Israel to reverse its decision. The Obama administration has also condemned the move.

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations broke down in 2010.

Abbas' offer is the first time he put a timetable on his call for Israel to stop settlement-building over the pre-1967 line since Binyamin Netanyahu became Israel's prime minister in March 2009, The Jerusalem Post said.

Abbas outlined his plan during an Arab League meeting Sunday in Doha, Qatar, where he urged ministers not to abandon the league's 2002 peace initiative, the Post reported. Ministers also pledged to give Abbas' financially wobbly party $100 million a month to help make up for the Israelis' decision to withhold tax revenues belonging to the Palestinians against their debt to the Israel Electric Corp.

Israeli officials said Palestinians should come back to the table without any pre-conditions. An Israeli official Sunday said Abbas' comments indicated he wasn't interested in resuming peace talks, the Post said.

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