August 31, 2010 / 5:06 PM / 7 years ago

Palestinians won't accept state of "left-overs": PM

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - The Palestinians will not accept a state of "left-overs" on land next to Israel and new peace talks must go straight to the substance of a deal, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday.

Fayyad said Israeli politicians should rethink their ideas for settling the six-decade-old conflict with the Palestinians, who aim to found a state on land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

A new round of U.S.-backed negotiations, the latest chapter in a 17-year-old peace process, will get under way in Washington on Thursday. Fayyad said solutions should be based on international law.

"When one hears statements made, descriptions or characterizations, about a State of Palestine given by Israeli officials, as a matter of fact, one cannot be terribly reassured," Fayyad told Reuters in an interview.

"We certainly are not going to accept a state of left-overs," he said, referring to a fear that Jewish settlements will seriously restrict the sovereignty of any Palestinian state.

"We certainly are not going to accept a state consisting of separated cantons, or a state that does not include the Jordan Valley, or a state that does not include East Jerusalem as the capital," Fayyad said.

The talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this Thursday will be the first direct negotiations in 20 months.


The Palestinians want to found a state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with East Jerusalem as its capital.

"That's how we interpret the phrase 'ending the occupation that began 1967'. It's very important for that to be understood," Fayyad said. "I think it's very important to really get to the substance early on."

He added: "It's important though for there to be a recalibration in terms of what the body politic of Israel has been considering as acceptable."

Jewish settlement on occupied land was one of "the facts on the ground" that Fayyad said was "adverse to the prospects of the emergence of that independent state of Palestine".

Fayyad unveiled on Monday the steps his government plans to take in the next 12 months to complete a two-year plan to prepare the Palestinians for statehood. The program has won the backing of Western states.

The United States has said it believes the negotiations can be completed within one year, though observers on both sides of the conflict are skeptical.

Fayyad, who Abbas appointed prime minister in 2007, said there must be "a much higher standard of accountability" if U.S. President Barack Obama's peace drive is to succeed where others have failed.

"There are obligations that need to be fulfilled," he said. Israel had not complied with any of its obligations under a 2003 peace plan known as the "road map", including freezing settlement building on occupied land, Fayyad said.

"It's very important for those obligations to be fulfilled. That's one form in which higher standards can and should be applied," he said.

Fayyad said the focus must fall on what is required under international law, "as opposed to crafting solutions, mechanisms, frameworks, on the basis of ... what might be acceptable, particularly to Israel, the occupying power".

That was part of what had gone wrong in past peace talks in which the Palestinians had been the weaker party.

"With each round that did not produce an outcome, we entered the succeeding round in a weaker position, holding onto the shorter end of the stick," Fayyad said. "Where is the equalizer in all of this?" he said. "The equalizer is international law."

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