Mahmoud Abbas calls peace process ‘clinically dead’

Remarks come on eve of negotiator’s trip to Washington to discuss restarting talks with Israel

Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Saeb Erekat. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Saeb Erekat. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The peace process is “clinically dead” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday, highlighting the current impasse between Israel and the Palestinians, even as the US prepares to step up mediation efforts.

“The peace process is clinically dead and the Israeli side is definitely the one responsible,” Abbas told a group of reporters in Ramallah, just days before chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is set to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss ways of jump starting talks.

While low level meetings have continued to take place between the sides, Jerusalem and Ramallah have not held official talks since the fall of 2010, at the tail end of a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze.

Abbas has demanded another freeze, and a recognition of the 1967 borders as a starting point, as a prerequisite for coming to the table, while Israel has insisted the talks be held without preconditions.

“The ball is in Israel’s court,” Abbas said.

Hopes were sparked recently of a possible meeting between Abbas and Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, though Abbas’s spokesman said on Sunday that a meeting between the two would not happen until next month at the earliest.

Mofaz, head of the centrist Kadima party, joined Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government in May and has expressed hopes of meeting Abbas since.

Ahead of his trip to Washington, Erekat reiterated that the Palestinians would remain firm on their demands before reentering into talks.

“I was assigned by President Abbas to inform US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of our position on resuming negotiations once Israel commits to stopping settlement activity and release of prisoners, among other obligations,” Erekat told AFP, adding that the demands were obligations and not preconditions.

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