PLO to extend Abbas term, back full settlement stop

PLO is expected to extend Abbas's term as president this week and back his call for a stop to Israeli settlement expansion before more peace talks.

PLO to extend Abbas term, back full settlement stop

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is expected to extend Mahmoud Abbas's term as president this week and back his call for a stop to Israeli settlement expansion before more peace talks.

The meeting of the PLO Central Council on Tuesday will remove any doubt over the fate of the presidency when Abbas's term expires on Jan. 25 and back his opposition to U.S. retreat from demands before a resumption of peace talks, according to an early draft of resolutions expected to emerge from the meeting.

Members of the Central Council have been saying for weeks they expect to extend the term of Abbas. According to the draft, he will stay in office until elections can be held, which requires agreement between the Fatah and Hamas movements.

Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, had called elections for Jan. 24. But a ban by Hamas on participation in the Gaza Strip led to the cancellation of the vote.

"President Abu Mazen and all the institutions of the Palestinian National Authority will continue their work and shoulder their responsibilities ... until the holding of elections," read the draft obtained by Reuters.

Hamas, which has control of Gaza in 2007, does not recognise Abbas's legitimacy as head of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

Hamas said an extension of Abbas's term would be illegal and cement Palestinian divisions. "It indicates that Fatah is not interested in ending the divisions," Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told Reuters.

An Egyptian proposal to promote reconciliation between the groups had called for presidential and legislative elections in June. Hamas has refused to sign it, citing reservations.

The PLO Central Council draft resolutions said elections must take place by June 28 -- the date set out in the Egyptian proposal -- and called for more efforts to end the split.

Backing for full stop to settlements

Hamas is not part of the PLO, which was founded in 1964 and is recognised internationally as the representative body of the Palestinians. The PLO Central Council created the Palestinian Authority in 1993 under interim peace accords with Israel.

Abbas is also leader of the PLO. Frustrated by the stalled state of the peace process, he has said repeatedly that he will not seek a second term as president of the Palestinian Authority.

The PLO Central Council will support Abbas's call for a complete halt to Israeli settlement building before any more peace talks and back his rejection of American-Israeli pressure, according to the draft resolutions.

Washington's retreat "surprised" Abbas expecting it to stand by previous pledge to call for a complete Israeli settlement freeze.

Abbas's frustration peaked when US called on the two sides to resume negotiations even without the freeze demanded by the Palestinians.

The draft resolutions would also prolong the life of the Palestinian Legislative Council, a 132-seat parliament whose term expires in January.

Hamas holds a majority of the seats in the council, having defeated Fatah in a 2006 election. The council has not convened since Israel had arrested most members of the Hamas majority in 2007.

The roadmap calls on Israel to remove all outpost settlements erected after 2001 and to stop settlement expansion, but thus far Israel has not heeded international demands for a complete settlement freeze.

The World Court has ruled all settlements illegal under international law. Palestinians, who want their own state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, see the settlements as a land grab as an occupier "state".


Agencies

Last Mod: 14 Aralık 2009, 12:38
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