US President Barack Obama asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to refrain from taking Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for any reason, the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported Saturday.
The newspaper quoted a Palestinian official as saying that during their meeting in Ramallah on Thursday Abbas told Obama he would wait two months before talking any measures against Israeli settlement construction, but stressed he would turn to the ICC immediately should the Jewish begin building in the E1 zone between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim.
Other officials told Asharq Al-Awsat that during Obama's talks with Jordan's King Abdullah on Friday, US representatives suggested holding a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman in early May, with the participation of American and Jordanian mediators. The report said Jordan welcomed the initiative and that US Secretary of State John Kerry would continue to advance it.
Obama, Asharq Al-Awsat reported, told King Abdullah that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in favor of gradually resuming the peace negotiations without discussing Jerusalem or the Palestinian refugees. The Jordanians called for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a permanent agreement, the report said.
Obama and King Abdullah, Friday
Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official was quoted by the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat that Abbas told Obama Israel was building 24 new homes a day in the West Bank.
Mohammed Ishtayeh, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, said the Palestinian president asked that Obama call on Israel to declare what its borders are before any negotiations are launched. "The Israeli government must stop settlement construction and stop giving the settlers incentives," Ishtayeh said.
During a joint press conference with Abbas on Thursday, Obama said he was not giving up on the stalled peace process in the Mideast, but argued that continued Israeli settlement building in West Bank is not helping the cause.
"We do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace," he said. "So I don't think there's any confusion as to what our position is."
However, the US president suggested that the Palestinians should not make a settlement construction freeze a precondition for resuming peace negotiations with Israel.
"The United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine," Obama said at the press conference. "The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it."
The American leader added that "misery" in the region persists "because Hamas refuses to renounce violence, because Hamas cares more about enforcing its own rigid dogmas than allowing Palestinians to live freely, because too often it focuses on tearing Israel down than building Palestine up."
In his opening remarks, Abbas emphasized that the Palestinian Authority believed a peace deal could still be reached.
"We believe that peace is necessary and inevitable. We also believe that it is possible," Abbas said.
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