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Abbas: I met with Barak in Jordan
Palestinian president says he discussed various issues with Israeli defense minister, but refuses to specify reason behind meeting; Netanyahu urges direct talks

RAMALLAH - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters at his Ramallah office that he met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Amman on August 24, and discussed with him a number of issues.

 

Abbas, who refused to specify the circumstances behind the meeting, reiterated that the Palestinian Authority is determined to turn to the UN soon.

 

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"We are going to complain to the UN about the occupation that we have been under since the Ottoman regime," he said. "We want peace. We want to be with Israel, not to isolate it. We encourage Arab nations to recognize Israel as we have promoted in the Arab Peace Initiative. We will not de-legitimize (Israel)."

 

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinian leader to return to the negotiating table. He said that peace can only be reached through direct talks without preconditions, and accused the Palestinians of doing everything to avoid such communication.

 

Netanyahu, who spoke after meeting Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, invited Abbas to come to Jerusalem, and offered to come to Ramallah to resume direct negotiations.

 

Netanyahu addresses media during meeting with Belgian PM (Video: Avi Peretz)

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The Palestinian president, who spoke to reporters after meeting with a group of Israeli scholars, did not address the PA's intention to request the UN to recognize a Palestinian state.

 

Abbas confirmed that he has met with President Shimon Peres a number of times in Jordan, Italy and the UK. "There was supposed to be another meeting on July 28, but it was cancelled due Peres' request," he said.

 

Meanwhile, a Palestinian official said that the Palestinians have yet to decide how they will press their statehood agenda at the United Nations this month, indicating less certainty than had previously been signaled on details of the plan.

 

Hanan Ashrawi, a leading member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the UN initiative was a step towards "breaking Israel's power hold over us and the American monopoly over peacemaking".

She also warned of "hysterical" Israeli responses to the diplomatic move, adding that reports of the Israeli army training settlers to confront possible Palestinian protests was a step "that could blow up in all our faces".

 

"We have several options and alternatives and we are keeping all our options and alternatives open. We are still discussing with all our friends ... the best, most effective means of addressing the UN and getting membership," she told Reuters.

 

"Hopefully we will take the decision soon but we will take it when we are in New York because we do not want to preempt any moves by having people trying to subvert our efforts."

 

Ashrawi said: "The Security Council is an option, the General Assembly is an option, full statehood is our objective. Even if we go through the General Assembly, we will also pursue full statehood."

   

Omri Efraim and Reuters contributed to the report 

 

 

 

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