Palestinians seek Arab backing to abandon peace talks | Pakistan Today

Palestinians seek Arab backing to abandon peace talks

Clinton reassures Abbas US efforts to coax Israeli PM into renewing a temporary ban on settlement building would continue ‘until the very last minute’
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas was on Friday to seek the support of Arab leaders to quit peace talks after Israel adamantly refused to exend a freeze on settlement building in the West Bank.
Abbas, who arrived in the Libyan city of Sirte on Thursday, was to lay out his position on whether to continue US-backed peace talks in a speech which would include “historic decisions,” and could also see the Palestinian leader resigning, officials said. Last-minute efforts to reach a compromise appeared to have failed, with Israel silent on the moratorium and the Palestinians adamant they would not talk while settlers continued to build on land they want as a future state.
In a phone call late Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reassured Abbas that US efforts to coax Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into renewing a temporary ban on settlement building would continue “until the very last minute,” a top aide said.
Although Clinton did “not not come up with anything new,” she confirmed that the Americans were “continuing their efforts to obtain a settlement freeze and that they will be working on that with Netanyahu until the very last minute,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.
In response, the Palestinian leader said he was “ready to resume negotiations on condition there is a clear freeze of the settlement activities.”
Abbas’s intention to halt negotiations has strong backing from the Palestinian public and leadership, but he has deferred a final decision until he has conferred with the Arab League Follow-up Committee on Friday evening.
A poll taken earlier this week found that two thirds of Palestinians support quitting the peace talks over new settlement building, which kicked off after the freeze ended on September 26.
Since then, Netanyahu has made no move to renew the freeze, partly because he does not have the support for such a move within his mostly right-wing coalition.
Israeli officials on Friday had no new developments to report, with Netanyahu’s spokesman saying only that Israel was “interested in continuing the direct negotiations” aimed at securing a peace agreement within one year, and “hopes that the other side will not leave the table.”
As the crunch summit loomed, Abbas hinted to Palestinian officials in Amman that the crisis could even see him tendering his resignation at the Sirte summit, an official with the Palestinian National Council said.
At a meeting on Wednesday, Abbas hinted at “new and important things … These new things include the possibility of resigning,” Khaled Mesmar told AFP.
Ahead of Abbas’s speech, due to be delivered at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT), top aide Yasser Abed Rabbo told AFP there was little chance of achieving “serious peace” with Netanyahu and his right-wing government.
“There is not going to be a real and serious peace process as long as there is this Netanyahu government,” he said.
“(The Israeli government) is always singing the praises of peace but on the ground it is putting every obstacle in the way of real progress,” he said.
For the Palestinians, Jewish settlements are a major threat to the establishment of a viable future state in the West Bank and they see the freezing of settlements as a crucial test of Israel’s intentions. AFP

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