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Middle East

Abbas: U.S. has presented no framework for Mideast peace

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting of the Fatah revolutionary council in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 10, 2014.(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

BETHLEHEM, Palestine: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that the U.S. had yet to present a framework for a Middle East peace deal, as a deadline ending nine months of negotiations loomed.

“Until now, we haven’t received the framework agreement we were promised,” Abbas said at news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Israel and the Palestinians have been locked in talks that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry fought hard to kick-start in July after a three-year hiatus, but the negotiations have faltered over key issues.

The negotiations are set to end on April 29, by which date Kerry hopes to have put a framework agreement in place so the two sides can extend their negotiations to work toward a final peace deal.

“When the framework is presented to us, we’ll give our opinion on it,” Abbas said.

Cameron said there were “serious disagreements” and “mistrust” preventing a peace deal, echoing concerns voiced by Kerry Wednesday.

“As for the question of mistrust between Palestinian leadership and Israeli leadership ... what I’ve seen over the last few days is serious disagreements on vital issues that will have to be settled if there ever is to be ... a peace deal,” Cameron said.

“There’s no outcome that’s possible where every Israeli is satisfied, where every Palestinian is satisfied. There has to be compromise. And compromise is difficult – compromise takes bravery.”

Cameron said Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he met the day before, would “have to take difficult, unpalatable and sometimes unpopular decisions ... in order to achieve that peace.”

Kerry acknowledged Wednesday that the level of mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians was the highest he had ever seen.

He said there were “gaps ... some of them very significant,” but stressed these should be seen within the context of the negotiations, saying: “I still believe it’s possible, but difficult.”

“Certain narrative issues are so powerful and so difficult that neither leader is going to definitively cede on them at an early stage of the negotiation,” Kerry conceded.

In recent months, Netanyahu has been insisting that Abbas recognize Israel as “a Jewish state” – something the Palestinians refuse to do, believing that this would irrevocably torpedo chances for the return of refugees living in exile.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 14, 2014, on page 9.

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