Middle East

Amman talks must produce settlement freeze: Palestinians

Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief negotiator, speaks to journalists during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 2, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI)

RAMALLAH: Exploratory talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will not continue past January 26 if Israel fails to freeze settlement construction, Palestinian officials say.

Speaking late on Wednesday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the two rounds of talks that have taken place in Amman so far would not be translated into full negotiations without a settlement freeze and clear parameters.

"The Amman talks are intended to obtain a settlement freeze and the use of the 1967 lines as a reference for any future talks, and will be given a chance to succeed until January 26," Erakat told AFP.

The talks are being held under the auspices of Jordan and the peacemaking Quartet, which has called on both sides to submit comprehensive proposals on borders and security by January 26.

"If the Amman talks under the auspices of Jordan and the Quartet do not succeed by the 26th then it will not be possible to resume negotiations with Israel," Erakat added.

The Palestinians have said repeatedly that they will not negotiate with Israel while it builds on land they want for their future state, and have called for the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War to form the basis for negotiations on borders.

Israel says it wants talks without preconditions and has declined a settlement freeze, leaving direct talks on hold since September 2010.

Also late Wednesday, Palestinian state news agency WAFA said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki to express her support for the talks.

WAFA said Malki had emphasized that the Palestinians continue to expect a settlement freeze and clear parameters for talks before they resume.

In the absence of negotiations, the Palestinians have focused their attention on the international arena, seeking full UN membership and winning a UNESCO seat in 2011, over US and Israeli opposition.

Erakat said 2012 "will be the year that the Palestinians go to the United Nations and all of its organizations."

"We will seek full membership of the United Nations for the state of Palestine and full membership in all the UN organizations, without exception," he said.

Erakat said the Palestinians expected to request membership in 16 international organizations this year.

"This is our right and fully complements the peace process," he said.





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