US President Barack Obama has warned Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that failure to resume direct peace talks with Israel could undermine US-Palestinian ties, Palestinian officials said on Saturday.
Obama made the warning in a letter to Abbas but also pledged to rally Arab, European and Russian support for the Palestinians if direct negotiations resume, a Palestinian official told AFP speaking on condition of anonymity.
“In the letter, President Barack Obama warned president Mahmoud Abbas that his refusal to enter into direct negotiations with Israel next month will have consequences for American-Palestinian relations,” the official said.
The 16-point letter had a “carrot-and-stick approach,” he added.
Obama stressed “it is high time to resume direct negotiations with Israel” and told Abbas that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is ready to resume direct negotiations.”
The letter warned that “Obama will absolutely not accept the rejection of his recommendation to move to direct negotiations and that there will be consequences for such a rejection in the form of a lack of trust in President Abbas and the Palestinian side,” the official said.
Obama pledged that his administration would work to extend an Israeli moratorium on Jewish settlements due to expire in September if Abbas resumes direct negotiations, he added.
“But in case of a refusal its assistance on that issue will be very limited,” he said, quoting from the letter in Arabic.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed to AFP that Abbas received a letter from the US president on July 16.
The revelation comes after the Arab League agreed in principle on Thursday to the resumption of direct Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, stressing however that Abbas had the final word on whey they should start.
Obama expects direct Palestinian-Israeli peace talks to resume at the onset of August and to address thorny issues such as borders and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, said the Palestinian official who declined to be named.
Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi quoted Palestinian Legislative Council Member Hanan Ashrawi as saying that the Americans have threatened to isolate the Palestinians.
"The (US) pressure has reached extortion levels. No Arab regime could say no (to the Americans)," she said.