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151 ¶ ¶ TEL AVIV, November 13, 23:03 /ITAR-TASS/. Palestine’s chief negotiator Saib Arikat and one of the Fath movement leaders, Muhammad Shtaya, who lead the Palestinian delegation to the talks with Israel, tendered resignation, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the Egyptian CBC television channel on Wednesday, November 13.
He did not specify when the resignation had been tendered, but said that the talks with Israel would continue. Abbas made it clear though that it would take at least a week to resume the work. “Either we manage to convince them [Arikat and Shtaya] to come back, and we are trying to do that, or we will form a new delegation,” he said.
Direct Palestinian-Israeli talks resumed in late July after an almost three-year break. The sides have held at least 16 meetings since then but with no progress on any of the issues discussed. It is believed that the lack of progress at the talks had prompted Arikat and Shtaya to resign. It is rumoured that both sides were quite emotional at their last meeting. The talks are expected to continue for nine months.
Arikat declined to comment on his resignation but said that the talks had come to a halt last week after Israel had announced plans to build new settlements on the Palestinian territories. Two days ago, Shtaya made a strong statement saying that it would be better not to sign any agreement with Israel than to sign an agreement allowing further settlement activities in the West Bank.
In his opinion, a bad agreement is an agreement that is based on Israel’s colonial ambitions rather than on internationally recognised principles and international law.
Palestinian Liberation Organisation Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo, the closest aide to Abbas Rabbo, said earlier that “the main factor that upsets progress at the talks is Israel’s refusal to stop settlement activities [in the West Bank and East Jerusalem]” and stressed that further construction of settlements “ruins the slightest chance for a peace agreement.”
Any agreement to be reached at the talks with Israel will be submitted to a nationwide referendum, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said.
The parties will discuss all disputable questions. “We agreed that mainly border and security issues will be discussed at the initial stage. But the borders of Palestine cannot be determined without discussing the problems of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements. There is a preliminary agreement that each concrete issue will be considered in connection with the others,” the minister said.
In its statement on July 30, the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said “Israel … would have to decide whether to help Palestine achieve independence or whether to continue confiscations, settlement construction and other such illegal policies and practices.”
Abdou Salam Diallo, Committee Chairman, highlighted, among others, Israel’s announcement to build 1,000 new homes in West Bank settlements; criticism by the Chairman of the Special Committee on Israeli Practices of Israel’s continued detention of more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners; and reports by a non-governmental organisation that, so far this year, 1,790 Palestinians had been arrested and 16 shot dead by the Israeli military.
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry had persuaded Israel to release more than 100 Palestinian prisoners who were put in jail before the Oslo agreement of 1993. In reply, Palestine had agreed to come to Washington in late July. The first group of 26 Palestinians was released from Israeli prisons on Tuesday, August 13.
“We have set the task of coming to some agreement with the Palestinians within nine months, but we have tried to do this over the past 20 years since the Oslo agreement and for more than 120 years since the start of the conflict,” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said.
“Skepticism in my tone is obvious but we decided to give it a chance,” he added.
The Palestinian side warned that further settlement activities on the part of Israel could cause the peace process to collapse. “The expansion of settlements runs counter to the American administration’s promises and can lead to a collapse of the negotiations,” Rabbo said.
On November 3, the Israeli authorities announced tenders for 1,859 settlement units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel plans to build 3,700 new houses there.
Palestinian warned that further settlement activities on the part of Israel could cause the peace process to collapse. “The expansion of settlements runs counter to the American administration’s promises and can lead to a collapse of the negotiations,” Palestinian Liberation Organisation Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo said.
In August, Israel’s Interior Ministry approved the construction of 890 new flats in Gilo, a large residential area in south-western East Jerusalem with a population of 40,000, mostly Jewish, located beyond the 1949 Green Line. Prior to that, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel had authorised the construction of 394 houses in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and 793 flats in East Jerusalem, including 400 in Gilo.
Direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians got stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Addressing the Security Council in April, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, urged the international community to maintain its commitment to advancing the prospects for resuming direct talks between the two sides.