Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat claims Israel values settlement expansion over peace negotiations, in comments made after Israel announced additional settlement construction and a report said the US fears talks are failing.
Erekat made his remarks during separate meetings with visiting Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and with UN envoy Robert Serry and US peace envoy Martin Indyk, Ma'an reported.
Israel has progressed with plans for roughly 2,500 new homes in six West Bank settlements, an official confirmed Thursday, in a move many agree will likely further endanger peace talks.
Washington is fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework proposal to extend the negotiations to the year's end. So far, the Palestinians have flatly refused to consider any extension, partly over Israel's persistent settlement construction which has shown no let-up since talks resumed last July.
According to Ma'an, Erekat said that the new settlement plans, as well as recent clashes in the Temple Mount's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, constitute a "systemic" effort to foil US and international efforts to implement a two-state.
Israeli negotiator Livni, Palestinian negotiator Erekat (Photo: EPA/Archive)
"Israel’s actions show that it has chosen settlements … instead of peace and negotiations,” Saeb Erekat said.
He further claimed Israel is “rejects peace by refusing to comply with the principles of international law for resolving the conflict.”
The US government is very worried that the talks between Israel and the Palestinians are on the verge of collapse and are seeking a solution that would allow for a way forward, Israel Radio reported Sunday.
According to the report, Western political sources said that the US administration is searching for a proposal favorable enough for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which would persuade his government to free Israeli Arab prisoners.
The talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which began in July, are due to end on April 29. Israeli officials have warned that a Palestinian failure to extend the talks would exempt Jerusalem from releasing a fourth and final batch of Palestinian prisoners, while President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that an Israeli failure to free the final group of 26 would allow the Palestinians to act as they saw fit in the international arena.
AFP contributed to this report.