Israel rejects ‘preconditions’ for direct peace talks

Aug 16th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

“(This) clearly proves that this government has other interests besides peace and stability in the region,” he added.

Erakat also rejected Israel’s decision on Sunday to deploy 23 caravans in eight West Bank settlements to serve as classrooms, saying it was “placing additional obstacles” in the way of US efforts to revive the peace process.

Netanyahu arrived in Greece on Monday, the first Israeli prime minister to visit a country that has traditionally been pro-Arab and did not recognise Israel’s existence until 1991.

Israel has repeatedly called for direct talks with the Palestinians but has refused to completely halt settlement activity, which it considers a “precondition,” but which the Palestinians say was part of previous agreements.

The presence of some 500,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, has been one of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict.

The Palestinians rejected the partial freeze on settlements as insufficient because it did not include mostly-Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed to its capital in a move not recognised by the international community.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The United States has been struggling for the past 18 months to relaunch the peace process, viewing it as a key foreign policy goal that would help improve relations with the Muslim world.

The two sides began indirect US-brokered talks in May, after the last round of direct talks collapsed when Israel launched a devastating three-week offensive in Gaza in December 2008 in a bid to halt rocket fire from the enclave ruled by the militant Hamas movement.

Hamas, which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, has warned Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas against holding any negotiations with Israel, including in a weekend statement co-signed by 10 other hardline groups based in Syria.

© 2010 AFP

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