Palestinian peace talks delegation resigns, Abbas says

RAMALLAH, West Bank Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:46pm EST

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Egyptian Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb (not pictured) at al-Azhar's headquarters in Cairo, November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Egyptian Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb (not pictured) at al-Azhar's headquarters in Cairo, November 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday his delegation of peace negotiators has resigned over the lack of progress in U.S.-brokered statehood talks with Israel that have been clouded by Jewish settlement building.

The development would mark a new low point for the talks with Israel that resumed in July and which officials from both sides have said have made little headway.

In an interview with Egyptian CBC television, Abbas suggested the negotiations would continue even if the Palestinian peace delegation sticks to its decision.

"Either we can convince it to return, and we're trying with them, or we form a new delegation," he said.

It was unclear from Abbas's interview when the Palestinian negotiators quit, but Abbas said he would need about a week to resume the talks.

In a statement to Reuters TV on Wednesday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat did not elaborate on the report of his resignation, but said the sessions with Israel were frozen.

"In reality, the negotiations stopped last week in light of the settlement announcements last week," he said.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an area now controlled by Hamas Islamists opposed to Abbas's peace moves, with East Jerusalem as its capital. They argue that Israeli settlements deny them a viable country.

Israel cites historical and biblical links to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more than 500,000 Israelis live alongside 2.5 million Palestinians.

Since the talks got underway after a three-year break, Israel has announced plans for several thousand new Jewish settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The disclosure on Wednesday that Israel's Housing Ministry had commissioned separate plans for nearly 24,000 more homes for Israelis in the two areas raised U.S. concern and drew Palestinian condemnation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an advocate of settlement construction, intervened late on Tuesday, ordering a halt to the projects and saying he had no prior knowledge of them.

Netanyahu said he feared such settlement activity could trigger an international outcry that would divert attention from Israel's lobbying against a deal between world powers and Iran that would ease economic sanctions on Tehran without dismantling its nuclear-enrichment capabilities.

Nuclear talks are due to resume in Geneva on November 20. Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, accuses Iran of pursuing atomic weapons. Iran says its nuclear program has only peaceful purposes.


A statement announcing Netanyahu's move made no mention of the Palestinians or the land-for-peace negotiations. Most countries say Israeli settlements built in areas captured in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal.

Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom, a member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, made clear on Wednesday that Israel would continue settlement building, while being more careful in the future about announcing it.

"The question is always about the timing. Is the timing right? Is the timing wrong?" Shalom told Israel Radio. "We need the support of the United States on the Iranian issue and have to do our utmost to lower any tensions with it."

Erekat said that Israel, through its settlement activity, was trying to destroy U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's diplomatic efforts to achieve a peace deal by the end of April.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department sought to downplay the reported resignations, saying it knew there would be ups and downs in the talks and pointing to Abbas's statement that the talks would continue with the old negotiators or a new team.

"The fact that President Abbas went out and reaffirmed his commitment today ... is a good sign, and we'll continue to pursue it on the same timeframe," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, adding that Kerry spoke to Abbas and Netanyahu on Tuesday.

In an attack that drew calls by far-right Israeli politicians to suspend the peace talks, a 16-year-old Palestinian stabbed to death an Israeli soldier on a bus in northern Israel on Wednesday.

Police said the Palestinian, who lives in the West Bank, told investigators he carried out the attack because his uncles are in prison in Israel.

(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Will Dunham)

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Comments (34)
BTA2013 wrote:
“Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, accuses Iran of pursuing atomic weapons.”

Come on. They have scores of warheads, possibly close to 200. What would have been nice to point out is that Israel, unlike Iran, has not signed the NPT. Slight oversight, I guess.

Nov 13, 2013 8:00am EST  --  Report as abuse
cautious123 wrote:
Israeli land thieves!

Nov 13, 2013 8:34am EST  --  Report as abuse
Who can blame the Palestinianss for quitting?

The “peace process” is a 36-year old scam…the Palestinians are stateless and oppressed, but they are not stupid; they realize that the US and Israel are simply stringing them along in these dead-end negotiations….they’ve had enough of this madness.

The Israelis now regret ANNOUNCING their plan to build an additional 24,000 Jews-Only housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem…as the article indicates, the Israelis do not regret the policy in any way, they simply regret being open and transparent about it….they regret the announcement, not the crime itself.

The Israeli government seems to enjoy rubbing the Palestinians’ noses in Jewish excrement, by bragging about these new, government-subsidized, apartheid-like settlements on stolen Arab land.

In the future, the Jews in Israel will probably be more secretive and clandestine, they may not brag so much, as they rip-off and occupy more Arab land, in order to build more Jews-Only housing tracts.

Nov 13, 2013 8:40am EST  --  Report as abuse
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