PA Denies Progress in Peace Talks
Despite a flurry of reports Thursday night based on a senior US official, claiming that a deal was being finalized to extend peace talks, Chief Palestinian Authority (PA) Negotiator Saeb Erekat clarified on Friday that no such progress had been made.
Speaking to the Ramallah-based newspaper Al Ayyam, Erekat said the reports of breakthrough progress in the peace talks are not correct.
According to the PA negotiator, the gaps between the two sides are still "deep."
A US official denied the reports Thursday, according to which a three-way deal was about to be reached having Israel free hundreds of terrorists and freeze construction in Judea and Samaria, the US free Jonathan Pollard, and the PA suspend some requests to join international conventions made in breach of talk conditions.
According to the US official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, the "reports are incorrect." After initially reporting that a deal could be near, Channel 2 quoted Israeli sources close to the talks as saying "the reports on the deal are premature," adding that the US State Department said "gaps between Israel and the Palestinians have narrowed, but there is still no deal."
The collapse of talks
Peace talks reached a dead end last Tuesday when PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas breached conditions by unilaterally applying to join 15 international conventions. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Wednesday signed official documents to confirm reception of ten of the requests to conventions co-signed by the UN. Before the most recent breakdown in talks, Abbas had led talks to a standstill by refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Following Abbas's breach of conditions, Israel took several punitive measures and sanctions in response. On Wednesday government ministries were forbidden to meet with PA officials, aside from Defense Ministry and peace talk contact.
An official announced on Thursday that Israel enacted additional sanctions by freezing the transfer of taxes Israel collects for the PA, suspending participation with the PA to develop a gas field in the sea off of Hamas-controlled Gaza, and putting a cap on PA deposits in Israeli banks.
Erekat lashed out on Thursday, labeling the sanctions as "theft." The sanctions were an act of "Israeli hijacking and the theft of the Palestinian people's money," claimed Erekat.
The new financial measures are expected to be particularly damaging, given that the PA announced in late March that it had reached a whopping $4.8 billion in debt, with the PA's 2014 budgetary deficit at $1.5 billion.