Settlement freeze key to indirect talks

Settlement freeze key to indirect talks
# 02 May 2010 00:29 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. The Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator Saeb Erakat is surrounded by videographers as he attends a meeting with Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, APA reports quoting web-page.

The top Palestinian negotiator says indirect peace talks with Israel will take place only if Tel Aviv stops settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Despite the Arab League’s backing for indirect talks between Israel and Palestine, Saeb Erakat said on Saturday that that if Israel begins fresh illegal settlements in East Jerusalem (al-Quds), the Palestinian side will boycott the negotiations.

"If they build one unit out of the 1,600, we will not go to the talks," Erakat told a Cairo news conference.

The Arab League decision to endorse the so-called "proximity talks" was taken on Saturday by a committee of foreign ministers after "guarantees" by US President Barack Obama in a letter to acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas.

The decision was taken "despite the lack of conviction of the Israeli side in achieving peace," the Arab League statement said.

The committee, however, insisted that the indirect talks should "not be immediately succeeded by direct talks."

Erakat said that a final decision to resume indirect talks with the Israelis will be taken by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.

In March, the Palestinians, with Arab backing, reluctantly agreed to indirect US-brokered talks for a period of four months, but those plans collapsed days later when Israel said during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden that it would build 1,600 new settlements in East al-Quds.