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Abbas: Israel must choose between settlements and peace

In press conference with Japan’s Shinzo Abe, PA president condemns ‘despicable’ Islamic State threats against Japanese hostages

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a press conference on January 20, 2015, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a press conference on January 20, 2015, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday the Palestinians are ready for a peace agreement, but that Israel must choose between an accord and settlements.

In a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority president also condemned the “despicable” threats by the Islamic State that it would execute two Japanese hostages.

Abbas said the Palestinians were seeking an agreement “on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative and UN resolutions.”

“We say to our neighbors: our hand is still stretched out for peace, and they have to choose between peace or expansion and settlements at our expense,” Abbas said, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.

The PA president also denounced Israel’s freeze of tax funds as a punitive measure in response to the Palestinians’ ICC bid, and the detention of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, saying these things would not bring peace.

The PLO joined the International Criminal Court earlier this month to file “war crimes” charges against Israel, a move that prompted a furious response from Israel and the United States. President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday urged Abbas to drop the ICC bid and resume direct peace negotiations with Israel.

On Sunday, Abbas accused Hamas of holding secret talks with Israel to create a Palestinian state in Gaza and Egypt, and said Cairo rejected the plan.

“I discussed this specific matter with President Sissi, and noted that Hamas and Israel have already agreed on the resolution, to which he responded, ‘No Egyptian would ever allow Israel or Hamas to have a single centimeter from our land,’ and Palestinians will never accept to build their state on another country’s land,” Abbas said, according to Ma’an.

Hamas “is still seeking its old dream of an independent Islamic state in Gaza, which matches the plans of many countries who work against the interests of Palestine,” he said.

On Tuesday, Abbas described as “despicable” a threat by the Islamic State group to kill two Japanese hostages and pledged his full support to visiting Prime Minister Abe.

“We once again emphasize our condemnation and total rejection of such despicable acts… which go against human morality,” Abbas said.

“We express our solidarity with you, and we stand by your side,” he told Abe, who shared the podium with him.

For his part, Abe said he had promised about $100 million (86.2 million euros) to help reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.

“We are preparing to give more support, worth around $100 million, in humanitarian aid, reconstruction aid and financial aid to Palestinian civil authorities,” he said.

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