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Peace talks blow up after teams swap accusations
Palestinian sources claim talks collapse after delegations exchange harsh words. Reports say Palestinians claim Israel lied in saying PA agreed to settlement construction, straining already tense negotiations, unable to agree on borders
Harsh words were exchanged Tuesday night between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams. The verbal clash between the two delegations has – according to the Palestinians – led to an abrupt halt of peace talks.

 

The two teams met Tuesday afternoon in Jerusalem for the 17th time, but the negotiations quickly deteriorated into harsh accusations and eventually shouting. The meeting ended without any meaningful discussion.

 

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A senior Palestinian official, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP that the Palestinians would refuse to continue the talks as long as Jewish settlement on the West Bank proliferates."The Palestinian-Israeli negotiations broke down during the session on Tuesday night," the official said.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with US Secretary of State John Kerry and said, "I want peace with the Palestinians, Israel wants peace with the Palestinians. Three months ago, we agreed on terms to start negotiations from and we hold to them religiously.”

 

He added, "I am concerned about the state of the talks because the Palestinians continue inciting and creating artificial crises; they continue to evade the historical decisions necessary for making true peace. I hope your visit will help steer the conversations where we can achieve the historic peace we hope for.”

 

"The Israeli side is determined to continue its settlement and we cannot continue negotiations under these unprecedented settlement attacks," the Palestinian official said after the stormy meeting.

 

 (Photo: EPA)

Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat (Photo: EPA)

 

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, fumed over what he called the "lies" leaked by Israel to the press, according to which the Palestinian Authority agreed to a deal in which Israel would continue to build settlements in return for the release of the 104 pre-Oslo Accords Palestinian prisoners, Ynet learned.

 

During the meeting, Erekat blamed the Israeli delegation for disseminating lies about the PA, claiming it has purposefully attempted to sabotage peace talks. This led, a Palestinian source said, "to a crisis in the talks with the Israelis, and then the meeting just fell apart."

 

Indefensible

Another issue plaguing negotiations is the issue of borders. Israeli media reported that Israeli negotiators sought to have the separation barrier that cuts through the West Bank serve as the border of a future Palestinian state.

 

"Israel's opening position was that the border be the route of the separation barrier, and not the 1967 lines as the Palestinians have demanded," public radio reported, The story also ran in Yediot Ahronoth.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected any return to the 1967 lines as "indefensible," saying it would not take into account the "demographic changes on the ground" –  a clear euphemism for Jewish settlements.

 

Israel began work on its sprawling "security fence" in 2002 at the height of the second Intifada or uprising, and has defended its construction as a crucial protective measure, pointing to a drop in attacks inside Israel as proof of its success.

 

The Palestinians, who refer to it as the "apartheid wall," say the barrier is a land grab, pointing out that when complete, 85% of it will have been built inside the West Bank.

 

There was no confirmation of the reports from Netanyahu's office, which has refused to comment on the content of the ongoing peace talks, in line with a US-requested media blackout since they resumed in late July.

Saeb Erekat, John Kerry, Tzipi Livni (Photo: AP) 

 

The meltdown came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was expected to meet with both Netanyahu and the Palestinians in a bid to promote a new US approach to present a proposal for an interim agreement.

 

Kerry has flatly denied the existence of any new plan.

 

"Let me categorically dispel any notion that there is anything other than the track that is formally engaged in between Israel and the Palestinians," he told reporters in Riyadh on Monday. "There is no other plan at this point in time."

 

But a Western source quoted by the Maariv daily on Tuesday said Washington had "not yet" drafted a position paper. "This idea is still in its preliminary stages and work is just now beginning on it," he said.

 

AFP contributed to this report

 

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