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'Clear position.' Abbas
Photo: Reuters
Mitchell (L) and Erekat in Ramallah (archives)
Photo: AP
Palestinians: Israel will make every effort to thwart talks
Following Abbas-Mitchell meeting in Ramallah, Erekat says Palestinians await US guarantee that Israel will be committed to peace process; claims reports of imminent indirect talks 'premature'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with special US envoy George Mitchell in Ramallah Friday evening to discuss the efforts to jumpstart indirect peace talks.

 

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that within the next two days the Americans will respond to a Palestinian demand that Washington guarantee Israel's commitment to the process, particularly with regards to settlement construction.

 

"We've made our position on this matter clear," Erekat said after the meeting, adding that Abbas and Mitchell are expected to hold additional talks on Saturday and Sunday.

 

According to the negotiator, during the meeting Abbas stressed that reports of imminent indirect talks are "premature."

 

"We will reach a decision during the PLO Executive Committee's convention, which is scheduled for Saturday, and we expect Israel to respect all of its obligations, first and foremost the halt to settlement construction and the opening of PA institutions in east Jerusalem," said Erekat.

 

 

"We are not talking about trust-building measures by the Israelis, but about obligations that the Israeli government must live up to," he added.

 

Addressing doubts expressed by senior Israeli officials regarding the chances of successful peace talks, Erekat said, "This attitude surprises me. It dooms the talks to failure before they have even begun. I believe they (Israel) will make every effort to hinder the negotiations."

 

"We want Mitchell, (US President Barack) Obama and the entire world to know what our demands are – a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and a halt to settlement construction," Erekat said.

 

"We expect Israel to choose the path of negotiations rather than the path of settlements," he said. 

 

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