RAMALLAH — There can be no peace with Israel without first defining the borders of a future Palestinian state, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday.
“Since the creation of Israel, nobody knows what the borders are. We are determined to know our borders and theirs; without that there will be no peace,” he said as Washington’s nine-month deadline for reaching a peace deal expired, leaving the process in tatters.
In a televised address, Abbas laid out his conditions for returning to the crisis-hit peace talks with Israel which have made no progress since they were launched on July 29 last year.
“If we want to extend the negotiations, there has to be a release of prisoners… a settlement freeze, and a discussion of maps and borders for three months.”
The peace talks hit a major stumbling block in late March after Israel refused to comply with a commitment to release 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners, prompting Abbas to resume moves to seek international recognition. Israel was wary of releasing Israeli Arabs in the proposed group, and also failed to get a commitment from Abbas to continue peace negotiations.
Israel then suspended talks altogether last Thursday, the day after Abbas’s Fatah faction of the PLO signed a unity pact with Hamas, an Islamist extremist group that calls for Israel’s destruction and is designated by Israel, the US and others as a terrorist organization. Israel said it would not negotiate with any Palestinian government that includes a Hamas component or is backed by Hamas.
Abbas has repeatedly insisted that Israel release the two dozen detainees plus hundreds more and agree to a freeze on settlement activity.
He has also demanded comprehensive talks on the issue of borders.