Israel, Palestinians trade blame for peace deadlock
Day after US President Barak Obama renews call on parties to resume negotiations, senior Israeli official says, 'Palestinian side has prevented return to talks by making unprecedented preconditions'. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat rejects charge, saying, 'Stopping settlement activity is Israeli obligation, not Palestinian condition'
Israel and the Palestinians on Friday traded blame for failure to resume stalled peace talks after US President Barack Obama renewed his call on both sides to resume negotiations as soon as possible.
A senior Israeli official said the Palestinians had rejected repeated calls by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume talks that have been frozen for eight months.
"The government of Israel has been calling for weeks to the Palestinians to return to the negotiation table," he said. "It is the Palestinian side that has prevented the return to talks by making unprecedented preconditions."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected the charge, saying it was not the Palestinians who were setting new conditions but the Israelis who were flouting obligations to stop settlement in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
"We don't have any conditions. Stopping settlement activity and resuming permanent status negotiations are Israeli obligations and not Palestinian conditions," Erekat said.
The impasse over settlements has created the most serious rift in US-Israeli relations in a decade.
Obama made a fresh bid on Thursday to break the deadlock on Middle East peace, calling on Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states to act simultaneously to help kick-start negotiations. He made the appeal during a phone call with Jordan's King Abdullah.
Obama's proposal seeks to overcome deep disagreement between Israelis and Arabs on which side should go first in making conciliatory gestures to revive a peace process the president has promised to re-launch.