Palestinians say Obama, Netanyahu meeting 'not negotiation'

The World Court has ruled all Jewish settlements illegal under international law.

Palestinians say Obama, Netanyahu meeting 'not negotiation'

U.S. President Barack Obama's summit this week with Palestinian leaders and Israeli does not signal a full re-launch of peace talks, which remain blocked by profound disagreement on Jewish settlements, a Palestinian official said on Sunday.

The World Court has ruled all Jewish settlements illegal under international law. The United States and European Union regard them as obstacles to peace.

"The meeting does not mean negotiations," a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas said after the White House announced the first encounter between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the latter took office in March.

The summit will take place on Tuesday in New York during the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. officials said. They called it a mark of the president's "personal commitment" to Middle East peace but played down the prospect of major immediate developments.

"These three leaders are going to sit down in the same room and continue to narrow the gaps," a U.S. official said.

However, there was no deal over settlements on Friday when Obama's special envoy George Mitchell completed a week shuttling around the region.

U.S. President Barack Obama is demanding a complete freeze of all Israeli building on the occupied West Bank, but the Netanyahu government has insisted on ongoing constructions.

"Palestinian demands"

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah explained Palestinian demands, echoed by Washington since Obama took office in January, that Netanyahu should end settlement expansion before full-blown talks resume.

On Friday, Netanyahu offered Mitchell a nine-month freeze in settlement building in the occupied West Bank, excluding Jerusalem Israeli officials said, adding that Mitchell was pressing for a one-year freeze.

Abbas wants an open-ended halt that also includes East Jerusalem.

Abu Rdainah also wanted a demand that Israel commit from the start of negotiations to reaching permanent resolutions of all the core issues of the conflict -- including borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

However, Netanyahu avoids full talks, insisting talks focus on interim solutions.

Israel signed up to a U.S.-backed peace plan in 2003, the "road map". It called for an end to building in the Jewish settlements.

While Netanyahu has been under the heaviest U.S. pressure on Israel in years, he rules out any discussion to end settlement issue.

Abu Rdainah said: "First, negotiations should focus on the six final status issues without any postponement of any issue.

"Second, all settlement must be halted.

"This meeting (on Tuesday) does not mean we are restarting negotiations because there is no agreement on these two issues."

"The Americans have failed to convince the Israelis to halt settlement and now they want a photo opportunity," a Palestinian official said on Sunday. "It's a victory for Netanyahu."

"With all due respect to Obama, this is not realistic," he said. "Everyone wants a process ... but nobody actually wants peace -- because peace, you have to pay for."

Palestinian leaders have said U.S.-backed peace negotiations with Israel could not resume unless there was a complete halt to settlement expansion in the West Bank, Israeli-occupied territory where they hope to establish a state.

Palestinians, who want their own state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, see the settlements as a land grab as an occupier "state".


Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2009, 21:01
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