Riyad Al-Maliki
Riyad Al-MalikiFlash 90

The Palestinian Authority's Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki has claimed that the upcoming framework agreement with Israel will be "non-binding", and that the PA was likely to take unilateral steps against Israel following the end of the nine-month negotiating period.

Speaking to pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat at the sidelines of the Arab League conference n Kuwait, Maliki criticized the US-brokered talks, which are set to expire at the end of next month, and reiterated the PA's opposition to extending the length of the negotiation process.

"We are committed, along with the US administration, to the nine-month period which ends on April 29," he said.

"When the nine months end, if there is something that justifies extra time, it will be discussed on the level of the Palestinian leadership and then our Arab brothers will be consulted about the issue before any decision is taken... Any amendment to the negotiation formula requires confirmation from the Arab side."

One crucial condition for extending talks, said Maliki, was a full construction freeze in all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

"If not linked with halting settlement activity, extending the negotiations will be a cover for the Israeli side to swallow Palestinian territory," he insisted.

His comments echo claims made by a source close to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who revealed yesterday that Abbas was willing to extend talks in exchange for a building freeze in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, as well as additional terrorist releases.

Maliki reiterated that expectations vis-a-vis the outcome of talks were low, having moved from hopes of a permanent "peace agreement" to a mere "framework agreement".

That would be a humiliating failure for the Obama administration, and particularly Secretary of State John Kerry, having declared its aim to impose a comprehensive agreement within nine months.

Asked how the PA would move forward following the termination of talks at the end of April, Maliki confirmed it would take unilateral steps "including making requests to join international organizations". 

On Tuesday, several senior PA officials similarly threatened "unilateral moves" if Israel did not release the fourth and final tranche of 104 terrorists set to be freed as part of the current negotiation process.

PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) Secretary General Yasser Abed Rabbo declared that the PA "shall turn to the UN's international organizations if Israel does not release the fourth and final group of prisoners. The release of the prisoners is in return for the freeze on seeking membership in international organisations."

Despite those comments, unilateral steps would be in breach of previous agreements with Israel, including the Oslo Accords, which committed both sides to a negotiated solution and forbids unilateral steps by either side.