Mitchell conditions Abbas to return table for any US help

US told Palestinian leaders they must resume talks with Israel if they want U.S. help for ending Israeli occupation and creating a Palestinian state.

Mitchell conditions Abbas to return table for any US help

The United States told Palestinian leaders on Friday they must resume talks with the Israelis if they want U.S. help to achieve a peace treaty that ends Israeli occupation and creates a Palestinian state.

Putting the ball squarely in the Palestinian court, U.S. envoy George Mitchell told President Mahmoud Abbas that returning to the table was paramount, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat quoted him as saying.

Mitchell himself left without comment.

Israel insists to reject U.S. call on ending settlements in West Bank that seem the key issue for resuming the Middle East talks.

The Palestinians refuse to talk until Israel stops building settlements.

"Mitchell said that if we want help to achieve a final settlement we must resume the negotiations. This was the main point of discussion," Erekat said.

"We do not share a common point of view on this issue," he told reporters, blaming the deadlock on the right-wing coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has refused to stop expanding Jewish settlements around Jerusalem.

"We want the resumption of negotiations. We are not obstructing negotiations," Erekat said the Palestinians had told Mitchell in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday. "Therefore you must work with Netanyahu to remove his conditions."

A year ago at the outset of his term, Obama listed a Middle East peace settlement among his foreign policy priorities and initially backed Abbas's demand for a total settlement freeze before talks suspended in December 2008 were relaunched.

But Obama later retreated from that position in face of Netanyahu's refusal, and on Thursday he admitted overestimating chances of a Middle East breakthrough.

Highlighting tensions, Palestinians in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh who tried to stage a protest against a nearby Jewish settlement clashed with Israeli soldiers on Friday.

Mitchell said nothing to Palestinian reporters after the talks in Ramallah. Palestinian sources said he planned to meet Netanyahu again on Saturday and would also go on to Egypt, which plays an important role in the mediation process.

Erekat said the Palestinians appreciated the U.S. efforts. But Netanyahu had derailed them, he said.

"He refused to stop settlement activities, he refused to resume negotiations where we left off", he added, referring to late 2008, when talks with the previous, centrist Israeli government of Ehud Olmert were suspended over the Gaza war.

Palestinians want all the land Israel seized in 1967, including a capital in East Jerusalem, and the return, or conceivably compensation, for millions of refugees and their descendants, who lost homes in what became Israel in 1948.

Israel, however, would be unlikely to accept anything in writing that it would say prejudges the outcome of negotiations.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has said he fears all that is on offer from Netanyahu is a "Mickey Mouse state", entirely surrounded by Israel or its armed forces.

Reuters
Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2010, 09:58
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