Speaking in Caracas on the last stop of a five-country tour of Latin America, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned that peace talks with Israel would not resume until it agreed to halt all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
AFP- Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas thanked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Friday for supporting the creation of a future Palestinian state as he rounded out a five-nation tour of Latin America.
The Palestinian leader also issued a warning to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who announced 10-month restrictions on building in West Bank settlements on Wednesday.
"Netanyahu stopped the negotiations. We cannot restart them without a commitment from both sides to respect the obligations of the roadmap," a US-backed 2003 Middle East peace plan that calls for a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, Abbas said.
The roadmap, which remains the basis for negotiations between the two sides, demands that the Jewish state freeze all settlement construction.
Peace talks have been on hold for nearly a year and remain stalled over the thorny settlement issue.
"The occupation will continue. Netanyahu will not agree to restart talks where they were left off. He had to decide between peace and the occupation, and regrettably he chose occupation," Abbas said in an address to the Venezuelan National Assembly.
Netanyahu's move was praised by the United States as a step toward relaunching the peace process, but the Palestinians said it fell far short of their demand for a complete settlement freeze ahead of any new negotiations.
Abbas, who found a largely receptive audience during his earlier stops in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay, met Friday with President Chavez.
Venezuela, Chavez said after hugging his guest, "from the start has taken the side of the Palestinian people, in its historic fight... against the genocidal state of Israel."
The firebrand leftist leader has pronounced himself a passionate supporter of the Palestinians and severed diplomatic ties with Israel after the Jewish state's devastating military offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
"We welcome your firm stance in favor of the Palestinian cause. It's no wonder because you are heirs to the great fighter Simon Bolivar," Abbas said referring to the father of independence of several Latin American nations including Venezuela.
Chavez sealed Abbas' "historic" visit by conferring Venezuela's top award, called the Order of the Liberator after Bolivar, and gave him a replica of the national hero's sword.
"You are the liberators of Palestine," said Chavez. "In one hand you brandish a sword, in the other an olive branch. You don't want to unsheathe, but you must always keep the sword handy."
Abbas, who earlier laid a wreath at the tomb of Bolivar, thanked Venezuelan lawmakers for their support as they approved an agreement boosting ties between the two peoples.
"I know that Venezuela, its government and its people, will continue their support for the cause of our people to create an independent Palestinian state," Abbas said.
Date created : 2009-11-28