Abbas rules out Israel talks before change on settlements
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Last Updated: Sunday, March 28, 2010, 00:36
Sirte (Libya): Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas ruled out US-brokered indirect talks with Israel unless the Jewish state changes its settlement policy, in a speech to Arab leaders on Saturday.

"We cannot resume indirect negotiations as long as Israel maintains its settlement policy and the status quo," Abbas said at the opening of a two-day Arab summit in the Libyan city of Sirte.

Abbas demanded a "complete halt to all Israeli practices," particularly in annexed east Jerusalem, the sector which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

"Negotiations on the borders (of a future state) would be absurd if Israel decides on the ground the border," said the Palestinian leader, in reference to Israeli actions aimed at creating facts on the ground.

"We have always said that Jerusalem is the jewel in the crown and the gate to peace," Abbas said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, also in a speech at Sirte, earlier urged Arab leaders to help facilitate indirect "proximity" talks and stressed that Jerusalem "should emerge from negotiations as the capital of two states."

Israel angered the world community when it announced plans earlier this month to build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in mainly Arab east Jerusalem.

Abbas went on to accuse Israel of trying to alter the identify of Jerusalem with "ethnic cleansing on a daily basis" and warned that such practices would lead to "wars in the region."


First Published: Sunday, March 28, 2010, 00:36

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