World Bulletin / News Desk
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must agree to the idea of a third party guarding the borders of a future Palestinian state before direct peace talks can start but he did not emphasize settlement issue despite strong opposition from both Fatah and Hamas.
In a newspaper interview published on Saturday, Abbas said Israel must also agree in principle to an equitable land swap that would compensate the Palestinians for West Bank land occupied by Jewish settlements in any peace deal.
His remarks came after the plan of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Gaza and border partolling published in daily Yediot Ahronot.
Conditions but "not freezing setllements"
Speaking after the Ramallah meeting, senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Yasser Abed Rabbo said the United States must provide more clarity on disputed issues before any advance to direct negotiations.
Speaking to the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad, Abbas said he wanted Israel to agree "in principle" to the idea that a third party take on a security role in a future Palestinian state to be founded on land occupied by Israel in a 1967 war.
"Now what is required from Israel is for it to say that these ideas are, in principle, acceptable," he said. "That means: do they accept that the land is the 1967 borders and that there be, in the Palestinian land, a third party.
Abbas has stated his rejection of any Israeli security role on the frontiers of the Palestinian state. But he has accepted the idea that NATO could play a role on the borders.
But Israel wants to maintain a presence in the Jordan valley along the West Bank's eastern border.
Without conditioning full settlement freeze, Abbas said, Israel must also agree to the idea of a fair land swap, referring to a scenario where some Israeli land bordering the West Bank would be annexed to a future Palestinian state in compensation for major Jewish West Bank settlement blocs that would become part of Israel.
He only said Israel must halt building Jewish settlements on occupied land. But he did not repeat his demand for a full settlement halt as a condition for direct talks with Netanyahu.
"We said that the borders must be on the foundation of 1967 with agreement on an equitable swap," he added. Palestinian officials have said they could accept such a swap but the area involved should not exceed 2 percent of the West Bank.
Doubts on Israel
The Fatah statement, which criticised calls for a move to direct negotiations, illustrated the domestic pressure Abbas is facing to resist more direct peace talks with Israel.
Fatah blamed a "lack of credibility" on the part of Israel for a lack of progress in the indirect talks, which got under way two months ago and are being mediated by George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy.
Abbas, who seems to says new plan by Israel under heavy presure of U.S. to revive the Middle East talks, Mitchell met Abbas on Saturday in Ramallah.
Mitchell, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, is mediating indirect peace talks that have been under way for more than two months.
As Fatah urged Abbas to accept talks without a credible deal on conditions of the proximity talks, Hamas, the ruler of the Gaza Strip since 2007, has also rejected plan of Lieberman that leaked into Israeli newspapers.
Lieberman wanted Israel to get rid of all its responsibility over Gaza, handing border control to the international community and turning the Hamas-run Palestinian coastal enclave into a fully "separate" and "independent" entity.
"We rebuff this plan because the Gaza Strip is part of the occupied Palestinian territories," said Abu Zuhri, adding "Gaza is still under the legal responsibility of Israel as an occupier."
According to the plan, Hamas authorities of Gaza can build up a power plant, while international inspectors watch the crossings between the enclave and Israel.
Lieberman intends to present his plan to the European Union foreign ministers who plan to visit the enclave on July 20.
"The plan to declare Gaza an independent entity, in which the Israeli occupation is talking about from time to time, is a Zionist attempt to escape from the Jewish state responsibilities as an occupier," said Abu Zuhri.