Erekat: There Haven’t Been Direct Talks in Weeks

December 22, 2013  

Amid reports that the United States is planning to present a framework agreement for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) within a month, the PA’s chief negotiator said on Sunday that the sides have not even had any direct talks for weeks.

NRG/Maariv quoted Saeb Erekat as having said that the only talks in recent weeks have been taking place between the PA and the Americans and the Americans and the Israelis. Israeli and PA representatives have not been meeting recently, he stressed.

“There have not been talks for some time,” said Erekat. “The meetings currently taking place are between the American leadership and us on the one hand, and between Israel and the American leadership on the other hand.”

Erekat outright denied a report Sunday in the London-based Arabic paper A-Sharq Al-Awsat, which claimed that there is already a written framework agreement to be presented by the Americans. He said that the matter is still under discussion and that the Americans have been listening to both sides.

So far, the Arab League has voted to reject a proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry, according to which Israel would withdraw from the Jordan Valley, but IDF soldiers would remain for a 10-year period. Arab leaders insist Israel withdraw completely in the short term.

Israeli leaders have expressed strong concern over Kerry’s suggestion as well, arguing that a complete withdrawal in 10 years is not in Israel’s interests and would pose a serious security risk.

Despite Erekat’s denial of the reports, an Arab League official confirmed to the Ma’an news agency on Sunday night that Kerry will present a framework peace agreement by the end of the month.

Mohammad Sbeih, secretary-general of Palestinian affairs at the Arab League, told Ma’an that Kerry would present a proposed peace agreement by Dec. 31.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas informed the Arab League about the upcoming proposal, saying it would contain American suggestions regarding the borders of the future Palestinian state, Sbeih told the news agency.

Abbas told the League that “once he receives the American proposal he will not respond but will present it to Arab nations to make a joint decision.”

According to Sbeih, Abbas told an Arab League meeting in Cairo this weekend what his exact position on the peace agreement is:

– Abbas would accept a Palestinian state with the entirety of eastern Jerusalem as its capital, with limited land swaps as long as the lands being traded were of equal value.

– He would accept an incremental withdrawal of Israeli troops from land that will be part of the future Palestinian state, allowing them up to three years to leave.

– He would reject the idea of any permanent Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, but would welcome an international peacekeeping presence.

– He would refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

– He would reject any interim agreement, calling instead for a final solution.

– He would reject any proposal that required the future Palestinian state to be demilitarized, but said he would not get involved in an “arms race.”

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