PARIS - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
met with Jewish writers and intellectuals in France on Sunday, ahead of his planned talks with the French leader.
Abbas told the Jewish intellectuals that negotiating while Israel
builds in the West Bank settlements would be a "waste of time." However, he said he was satisfied with the progress of the direct peace negotiations.
The PA leader stressed the importance of the Diaspora Jews' involvement in the peace process. He reiterated that as far as the Palestinians are concerned, Israel has a choice between peace and settlement construction, and expressed hope that the dispute would be resolved.
Abbas will meet President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday, as the peace talks with Israel teetered on the question of renewed building by Jewish settlers in land claimed by Palestinians.
Abbas' French trip comes as an Israeli deadline for a construction slowdown expires at midnight Sunday.
The Palestinians have threatened to quit the negotiations if building restarts, while Netanyahu has said he will not extend the slowdown.
Settlers celebrate end of moratorium (Photo: Reuters)
The Palestinian leader said in a published interview Sunday he wouldn't immediately withdraw from talks started this month if construction resumes. He says he plans to consult with Arab partners.
Meanwhile the head of Israel's negotiation team, Attorney Yitzhak Molcho, is holding a series of discussions in the White House with senior officials in the US administration regarding a formula to allow the continuation of direct talks with the Palestinians once the West Bank settlement building freeze expires Sunday night.
The Prime Minister's Office is holding intensive discussions in the past few hours, at the end of which a general outline of Israel's positions will be drawn up.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report