Abbas Tells Obama He’s Ready to Talk

March 20, 2012  

PLO official Saeb Erekat said Tuesday that President Mahmoud Abbas told US president Barack Obama that the Palestinian Authority is ready to return to negotiations if Israel commits to Quartet requirements.

Erekat’s remarks came after the White House said Obama called Abbas on Monday to assure him of the US commitment to Middle East peace.

It was the two leaders’ first conversation since meeting in New York six months ago, just before the US blocked Abbas’ unilateral statehood bid in the UN Security Council.

According to Voice of Palestine radio, Abbas told Obama the PA will return to talks if Israel fulfills the request of the Middle East Quartet to submit their proposal on borders and security – which Israel has already done.

Israeli and PA negotiators held five rounds of exploratory talks in Jordan during January, after the Quartet for Middle East Peace – the European Union, Russia, United Nations, and United States – called for proposals by the end of the month.

Both Israeli and PA officials have submitted their proposals, but officials in Ramallah dismissed Israel’s positions as “not serious.”

They have also continued to demand Israel accept the indefensible pre-1967 lines, halt all construction in ‘disputed territories,’ and release all Arab security prisoners from its prisons before negotiations even begin.

Abbas is reportedly preparing to send a letter to Israel and the international community outlining the basis for a PA state, and reiterating demands Israel stop settlement building. Such a demand would indicate that the PA is not truly prepared to accept the Quartet’s demand both sides resume negotiations without preconditions.

Erekat said Abbas briefed Obama on the letter, which will outline his position that Israel is responsible for the failure of the peace process. Obama reportedly advised Abbas not to include threats to dismantle the PA in the letter.

Abbas also discussed the deal reached with Hamas in Doha last month to establish an interim government to oversee new elections. The agreement has since stalled due to an internal row in Hamas.

Israeli officials, who have said they are ready to resume negotiations without preconditions immediately, maintain Abbas’ preconditions are a fait accompli to forestall bilateral talks.

In December 2012, PLO officials announced “a strategy based on continuous efforts along with the international community to secure full recognition and full United Nations membership, pursuing internal reconciliation, and keeping up the popular resistance.”

They have also threatened to terminate all standing agreements with Israel – including economic and security cooperation.

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