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Middle east

Palestinian politicians reject Kerry’s map for peace talks

© AFP

Video by Halla Mohieddeen

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-07-19

Palestinian politicians have rejected a hard-fought proposal by US Secretary of State John Kerry for resumed peace negotiations with Israel, during Kerry's sixth visit to the region since taking office in February.

Palestinian politicians rebuffed on Thursday a hard-fought blueprint for resumed talks with Israel thrashed out by US Secretary of State John Kerry in a blow to his marathon peace efforts.

A US official had warned that Kerry was unlikely to be able to announce any breakthrough on resuming direct peace negotiations with the Palestinians despite extending until Friday his sixth visit to the region in as many months.

The setback for the US plan came from the governing Revolutionary Council of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s own Fatah movement, which demanded changes.

The broader Palestine Liberation Organisation, which also includes leftwing factions less sympathetic towards a compromise, said it would meet later on Thursday to draw up a formal response to Kerry’s proposals.

Palestinian member of parliament Mustafa Barghuti said “most factions” within the PLO had rejected Kerry’s proposal.

“During the leadership meeting... most of the Palestinian factions... rejected restarting peace talks based on Kerry’s proposals,” he said.

PLO executive committee member Wasel Abu Yusef said the Palestinian leadership had “decided to form a committee to respond to Kerry’s proposals”, which would meet later on Thursday to prepare an official answer.

“Kerry did not present guarantees to stop settlement building, nor base (peace talks) on 1967 borders,” he said.

Kerry’s plan would have seen Israel, now ruled by a coalition that has tilted sharply to the right after elections early this year, make only a tacit commitment to slow settlement construction in the occupied territories, not the publicly announced freeze long demanded by Abbas.

On Wednesday, the US envoy had expressed cautious optimism that he was making progress towards a deal to restart talks after his proposals were endorsed by Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi and senior Gulf Arab diplomats.

But even he had acknowledged that there were still differences over “terminology”.

A senior Fatah official said the party wanted changes to what Abbas had agreed.
“Fatah wants to make some alterations to Kerry’s plan... because the proposed ideas are not encouraging for a return to negotiations,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The announcement came after two rounds of intensive talks between Kerry and Abbas, who is also Fatah leader.

It was the top US diplomat’s sixth visit to the region since he took office in February, to try to broker a compromise to allow a resumption of direct peace talks that have been frozen by Israel’s refusal to agree to a new suspension of settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

Israel had rejected Palestinian demands for a publicly stated freeze to all settlement construction in the occupied territories as a condition for resuming talks, and Abbas and his negotiating team had referred the idea to his party leadership of an undeclared moratorium.

The US State Department acknowledged that Kerry was unlikely to be able to announce a breakthrough on his latest visit.

“There are currently no plans for an announcement on the resumption of negotiations,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Kerry on Wednesday had been hopeful of progress.

“Through hard and deliberate, patient work, and most importantly through quiet work, we have been able to narrow those gaps very significantly,” he told reporters.

“We continue to get closer and I continue to be hopeful that the two sides will come to sit at the same table.”

Kerry’s latest peace bid came against the backdrop of Israeli anger at new European Union guidelines for its 28 member states that will block all funding of, or dealings with, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called Kerry and warned that the EU was “damaging efforts to restart the talks”.

The EU’s office in Israel said on Thursday that Kerry, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Netanyahu all called European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday night to discuss the guidelines.

It said in a statement that the EU is ready to negotiate with Israel regarding their planned entry into force from January 1 next year.

“Following a request from Israeli authorities the EU stands ready to engage in consultations on their implementation,” the statement said.

(AFP)

Date created : 2013-07-18

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