Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No more exploratory talks, says PLO

RAMALLAH: Palestinian leaders have blamed Israel for the failure of exploratory talks aimed at resuming peace negotiations, and said they planned to explore other ways of bringing about a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The talks ended in Jordan on Jan. 25 without achieving any progress and Palestinian officials said President Mahmoud Abbas planned to consult fellow Arabs on his next move.

"In light of the results of the Amman meetings, the Palestinian leadership holds Israel fully responsible for their failure," the top Palestinian decision-making body, the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said in a statement on Monday.

"These meetings exposed Israel's determination to pursue settlement activity and its rejections of the two-state solution based on the 1967 boundaries," it added in the statement, issued after a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that peace prospects with the Palestinians looked poor after the Amman talks, at which he said the Palestinians "refused even to discuss Israel's security needs."

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with ARAB East Jerusalem as its capital. They say Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

The Amman talks were proposed last year by the Quartet of international mediators, after the Palestinians decided to seek United Nations membership for the state they have been seeking, saying Israel was not serious about reaching a peace deal.

The United States and the European Union have been pushing Palestinians to continue to talk to Israel. The European Union has sought Israeli confidence-building measures, including freeing some prisoners and expanding areas of Palestinian control in the West Bank.

The Palestinians have said there will be no more talks and They will consult an Arab League follow-up committee on Feb. 4 on what to do next.

Wassel Abu Yousef, an executive committee member, said the Palestinians decided to hold no more exploratory talks with

Israel in order "not to give Netanyahu a chance to deceive the world by claiming that talks were in progress."

The executive committee also decided to step up efforts to achieve reconciliation with the rival Hamas group.

"The leadership will work to study a number of political and practical options during the coming days and to continue the political campaign it began on the international arena," said the statement, read by Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the PLO executive committee.

Previous peace negotiations collapsed in late 2010 with the Palestinians demanding that Israel suspend settlement building in the occupied West Bank, including Arab East Jerusalem. UN leader Ban Ki-moon started a Middle East peace mission on Tuesday seeking to add to international pressure on the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to return to direct negotiations.

The UN secretary general was to hold talks in Amman with King Abdullah II and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, officials said.

On Wednesday, he will hold key meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in occupied Jerusalem and and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah, officials said.