Amid talk of new peace pushes, Palestinians hold firm to preconditions
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Amid talk of new peace pushes, Palestinians hold firm to preconditions

PLO official says US told that Ramallah won’t budge without settlement freeze, prisoner release; second official reports little progress in bid for Moscow-hosted talks

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinians officials rejected a recent US proposal for a trilateral peace summit with Israel, a Palestinian official said on Sunday, amid reports that efforts for possible talks hosted by Moscow were pushing forward.

Senior PLO official Wasel Abu Yousef told the Jordanian daily al-Ghad that the US had been informed of the PLO’s “firm stance” for two requirements to be met before any meeting with the Israelis: a freeze of construction in the settlements and the release of the fourth batch of prisoners promised to the Palestinians during negotiations in 2014.

A separate PLO official close to the negotiations department told The Times of Israel he hadn’t heard of any such American proposal for a trilateral summit.

A senior official in the Palestinian Authority President’s office contacted by The Times of Israel also said he hadn’t heard of the proposal.

The PLO official close to the negotiations department, who wished to remain unnamed, said the US is trying to figure out something to bypass the French initiative, but said the Palestinian requirements for resumption of talks are still the same: a freeze on settlement construction and release of prisoners.

Israeli officials say they are willing to hold talks, but rebuff Palestinian demands for preconditions.

Protesters angry at Israel's decision to release Palestinian prisoners as part of US-mediated peace talks interrupt the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony held at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on May 05, 2014. (Photo credit: Emil Salman/Pool/Flash90)
Protesters angry at Israel’s decision to release Palestinian prisoners as part of US-mediated peace talks interrupt the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony held at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on May 5, 2014. (Emil Salman/Pool/Flash90)

 

The Palestinians are currently focusing their efforts on the French peace initiative — a regional approach to bringing an end to the conflict and to create a clear time frame for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Jerusalem opposes Paris’s plan and argues that only direct bilateral negotiations would be effective.

On Sunday, the Israeli Haaretz daily reported that talks on peace negotiations had been hosted by Moscow, citing Palestinian officials.

However, Ahmed Majdalani, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the Palestinian demands remain the same, indicating that little progress had been made.

The Moscow talks were first brought up by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi last week, when he said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to host Israeli and Palestinian leaders for direct talks.

In July, it was reported that Egypt itself was seeking to host a trilateral meeting in Cairo.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (right) shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Cairo on February 10, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/ Ria Novosti/Mikhail Klimentyev)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (right) shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Cairo on February 10, 2015. (AFP/ Ria Novosti/Mikhail Klimentyev)

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that Egyptians force Israel to freeze settlement construction and release the fourth batch of prisoners before he would consent to attend the summit in Cairo. Abbas also demanded that Israel acquiesce to negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines and pledge ahead of time to implement any agreements reached in the talks.

The PLO official close to the negotiations department denied earlier reports in the Israeli press that Abbas had relented on the requirements toward Israel in regards to the Cairo summit.

Netanyahu in July reportedly told Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry — on a rare visit to Jerusalem — he would be willing to meet with Abbas in Cairo for talks hosted by Sissi. The Prime Minister’s Office did not deny the report by the Saudi-owned, pan-Arab news outlet Al-Arabiya.

It said in a statement that “whether the issue was discussed or not, Israel has always said it is prepared to conduct direct bilateral negotiations with no preconditions.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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