Recent comments by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he would set new conditions for talks with Israel do not mean he is ready for peace talks, a Palestinian official said Saturday, German news agency DPA reported.
Abbas on Friday told French President Francois Hollande that he would seek an Israeli promise to release Palestinian prisoners and free up guns for security forces as preconditions for talks.
Abbas had previously demanded a freeze in settlement building and Israeli acceptance of the 1967 borders as a starting point before coming to the negotiating table.
Abbas’ comments Friday were not meant to construe willingness to begin negotiations with Israel, though, said Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
“What President Abbas had meant by this was not return to negotiations,” he said, according to DPA . ”It will be only dialogue to urge Netanyahu to stop settlements, and not negotiations.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would only return to talks without any preconditions. Israel implemented a 10-month settlement freeze in 2010, though negotiations with the Palestinians only got underway in the last month of the construction moratorium. Those talks were quickly cut off when construction began again.
Contacts between the sides have remained fairly low-level since several months ago, when Abbas and Netanyahu exchanged letters on conditions for resuming talks.
Speaking in Turkey last week, Abbas said he would only resume talks if Netanyahu answered “two simple questions,” though he would not elaborate on what those were.
Abbas later told the Times of Israel that he was ready for peace talks.