- government - Israel - talks
RAMALLAH - Chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurie won an assurance from Israeli prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni on Tuesday that peace talks will not stall while she tries to form a new coalition government.
In an interview with Reuters following their meeting, Qurie warned that violence could erupt if the talks collapsed.
"The Palestinians will continue to negotiate. But, if the talks reached a dead end, what do we do? Capitulate? Resistance in all its forms is a legitimate right," Qurie said.
He said he had had a good first meeting with Livni, his Israeli negotiating counterpart and currently foreign minister, since her appointment as prime minister-designate on Monday.
"Livni reassured me she would continue the peace process without accepting any conditions."
In a statement issued by her office, Livni urged the Palestinians not to resort to violence which will "not achieve for the Palestinians any national objective."
Israeli officials denied that Livni made any promises about the contents of the negotiations going forward. Some prospective coalition partners object to including Jerusalem in the talks.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said after the meeting: "Livni assured her Palestinian counterpart that the meetings and working sessions will continue in the same format, with no change, even through the period in which she is trying to put together a governing coalition."
But he added: "She made no promises, such as the one he (Qurie) alluded to, concerning the contents of the talks."
Referring to the goal set by U.S. President George W. Bush last November, Qurie said he had "great doubts about finalising a deal this year".
He said Palestinian leaders were considering their options if talks failed to produce a deal that would lead to independence.
If they lost hope in negotiations and became convinced Israel was not prepared to end its occupation, renewed attacks against Israelis were possible.
Asked whether he was saying the Palestinians might resume suicide bombings and attacks inside Israel, Qurie responded: "All forms of resistance."
Livni, now trying to form a new coalition government to carry on peace talks that have so far produced little progress, made a similar warning in August.
Bush launched Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at Annapolis last November, seeking a deal on the establishment of a Palestinian state before he leaves office in January 2009.
Qurie said talks on sensitive final status issues such as the fate of Jerusalem, refugees, and borders have been marred by continued Jewish settlement expansion on occupied land.
The change of government in Israel following the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "makes it difficult for Israel to make decisions under such conditions, and time is running out", he added.
The Palestinians were also unable to make decisions, as their attention was diverted by "internal divisions as a result of Hamas' coup in Gaza, and power struggles", Qurie said.
Israel has said it would not implement any deal it signs with the Palestinians until the government of President Mahmoud Abbas re-establishes control of the Gaza Strip, which the Islamist Hamas group seized in June 2007.
Qurie said Palestinian options include abandoning the proposed two-state deal for a one-state solution absorbing Jews and Arabs into a single country -- something few Jews are willing to countenance.
Olmert has proposed a partial deal that would set aside the most intractable issue -- divided Jerusalem. Qurie said partial deals only brought disasters in the past.
"We want a detailed, comprehensive accord that would end occupation," he said.