PA Accused of 'Lying' as Talks Continue

Jericho meeting at the home of PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat went ahead as planned, in spite of apparent misinformation by PA officials.

Ari Soffer ,

Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Palestinian Authority officials have been accused of "lying" after it became clear that a meeting scheduled yesterday between Israeli and PA negotiators had not been cancelled. The meeting went ahead as planned in spite of claims to the contrary made by a senior PA official following the death of three rioters in the Kalandia refugee camp in the early hours of the morning.

On Monday, a senior PA spokesperson declared that the talks had been cancelled, in response to events in Kalandia.

"The meeting that was to take place in Jericho... today was cancelled because of the Israeli crime committed in Kalandiya.

"What happened today in Kalandiya shows the real intentions of the Israeli government," said PA Chairman president Mahmoud Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina.

He called on the U.S. Administration to "take serious and quick steps" to prevent the collapse of peace efforts.

Also on Monday, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which dominates the PA, claimed that the talks had been suspended.

But a "well-informed Palestinian source" told the Chinese Xinhua news agency that the meeting did in fact go ahead, with the two teams of negotiators meeting at the home of chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat in Jericho on Monday evening. The American team was absent from that meeting, added the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity

The U.S. State Department, for its part, had denied the earlier reports of a cancellation, though a press conference on Monday State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf spent an uncomfortable few minutes trying to avoid explicitly confirming that the Palestinian side had lied.

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee pressed Harf to admit that "There is one side in this situation that is not telling the truth... it's not the American side and it's not the Israeli side."

But despite his insistence, she refused to directly address the allegations, simply reaffirming that:

"As we have said the parties are engaged in serious and sustained negotiations."

"We are not going to announce when every meeting takes place. But again I can assure you that no meeting has been canceled," she said, citing a commitment by all sides to keep the details of negotiations private to "give them the best chance of success" - a commitment that the Palestinian Authority team has not appeared quite so zealous sticking to.

Last week, the PA's own chief negotiator gave an interview with the Nazareth-based Arabic language A-Shams radio station, in which he claimed that the PA team had received a letter of assurance from the US, guaranteeing all of his side's main preconditions to talks.

Erekat said in the interview that the U.S. had assured the PA in writing that talks would recognize the "pre-1967 borders" as the basis of a Palestinian state, would deal with all "core issues" (Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security and water), would take place within six  to nine months and would not allow for any interim solutions before a final status agreement is signed.

Excerpt from State Department interview: