Abbas: Free Terrorists and We'll Resume Talks
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday he was willing to resume peace negotiations with Israel.
Abbas, who spoke at a ceremony at the Russian Diplomatic Academy in Moscow where he received an honorary degree, once again placed preconditions on the resumption of talks.
According to a statement that was published on the PA’s WAFA news agency, Abbas expressed his willingness to resume negotiations for another nine months but place three conditions: that Israel release the fourth batch of terrorists, that the first three months be dedicated to drawing up borders for the future Palestinian state, and that Israel halts construction in Judea and Samaria.
Israel cancelled the fourth terrorist release "gesture" in early April, after the PA requested to join 15 international agencies in breach of the conditions of the peace talks. Israel subsequently pulled out of the talks altogether, after the PA signed a unity pact with Hamas.
The statements by Abbas, who has for years imposed preconditions on peace talks, are nothing new.
In May, shortly after Israel pulled out of the talks, Abbas conditioned a return to talks on Israel releasing the fourth batch of terrorist prisoners and freezing construction in Judea and Samaria for three months.
Nabil Shaath, a senior PLO official and a close confidant of Abbas, said last month the PA wants to renew peace talks.
Speaking at a conference of the far-left Meretz party in Tel Aviv, Shaath claimed, "We are interested in renewing the talks. There are topics that are open for negotiations, and they are the core issues, while on the other hand there are topics that are not up for negotiations: the Palestinians' right of self-definition in the 1967 borders, and the right of unity in the Palestinian nation."
In his speech on Thursday, Abbas also praised the PA’s relations with Russia, saying, according to WAFA, that the Kremlin’s political positions have unequivocally contributed to advancing ways to achieve peace.
He noted that the Kremlin has made a contribution through its unwavering and preliminary position in the Quartet to support “the Palestinian people’s rights as well as the two-state solution.”
In January, Abbas said he wanted Russia to play a role in peace talks with Israel.
"We are pleased that Russia is acting as an active and influential player in the international arena," said Abbas at the time, adding, "We come out for Russia to play a central role in the Middle East, because you are a great power, a member of the international quartet on the Middle East settlement, you are a friendly nation to us, and you have national interests in the region.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Abbas met on Wednesday when Abbas arrived in Moscow. Putin told Abbas that he would like to see the resumption of the peace process between Israel and the PA.
"Of course, we all want to renew the peace process. I know there are many difficulties, but I'm glad we have the opportunity to exchange words and see what we can do together to move the issue forward," Putin said.