Erekat Rejects Proposal to Extend Peace Talks
The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) chief negotiator on Thursday rejected U.S. moves to extend an April deadline for nine months of talks with Israel to culminate in a framework peace deal.
"There is no meaning to prolonging the negotiation, even for one more additional hour, if Israel, represented by its current government, continues to disregard international law," Saeb Erekat told AFP.
"If there was a committed partner, we wouldn't even have needed nine hours to reach that deal," he added.
Erekat was responding to comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that more time would be needed and that he hoped first to agree a framework to guide further talks.
It was Kerry who coaxed the two sides back to the negotiating table in late July, after a three-year hiatus.
"Then we get into the final negotiations. I don't think anybody would worry if there's another nine months, or whatever it's going to be... But that's not defined yet," he said.
The negotiations have shown little sign of progress, amid bitter recriminations with each side blaming the other for the stalemate.
Kerry insisted, however, that both parties were still "in the middle" of the talks.
"I laugh at people who say it's not going anywhere. They don't know because we're not talking about where it's at. They have no clue where our negotiations are and whether they could go anywhere," he claimed.
Last week, Kerry met twice in Paris with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, in what a U.S. official later described as "constructive" talks.
A PA official, however, said last Friday that ideas proposed by Kerry in Paris could not be accepted "as the basis for a framework accord... as they do not take into account the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."
Few details have been made public of Kerry’s proposed framework, though Thomas Friedman of the New York Times published some alleged details of the plan, which, he said, will call for a phased Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria based on the 1949 lines, with "unprecedented" security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley.
The Israeli withdrawal will not include certain settlement blocs, but Israel will compensate the Arab side for this with Israeli territory.
On Thursday, the New York Times reported that President Barack Obama has decided to take a more “active role” in the negotiations.
According to the report, during his meeting next week with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama will make an “urgent appeal” to Netanyahu to accept Kerry's plan.
Meanwhile, the PA-based Al-Quds newspaper reported on Wednesday that Abbas became very angry during his meeting with Kerry last week and threatened to end the negotiations with Israel.
According to the report, Abbas fumed when, during a meeting with Kerry in Paris, the top U.S. diplomat presented a new offer which, according to senior PA officials, adopted the Israeli positions for a peace agreement. The newspaper also reported that in order to appease Abbas and get him to continue the negotiations, the Americans invited him to a meeting at the White House with Obama.