Abbas voices frustration over Israel peace talks
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Last Updated: Friday, July 02, 2010, 00:20
Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is stalling over the indirect talks with the Palestinians, president Mahmud Abbas charged in remarks published by several Israeli newspapers on Thursday.

"We haven't received from Netanyahu even a single sign that might indicate progress" in the US-backed proximity talks, Abbas was quoted as saying by the Maariv daily.

"He has completely ignored everything we've raised," the paper quoted him as saying in comments made to Israeli journalists from four newspapers who spent the evening at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.

The indirect talks, which began on May 9 and are scheduled to take four months, are regarded as a first step towards renewing direct negotiations which collapsed in December 2008 when Israel launched a devastating 22-day offensive on Gaza.

Abbas said that the core issues being discussed at the talks with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell were borders and security -- issues on which an agreement was crucial if the two sides were to begin direct talks.

"As soon as there is progress we'll shift to direct talks, but up until now we haven't received even a single sign that might indicate progress on those issues," he said.

His remarks were reiterated today during talks in Ramallah with Mitchell, chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said.

"President Abbas told Mitchell there would not be any move to direct negotiations without progress on the questions of security and borders, and in particular, without Israel recognising the borders of the Palestinian lands it occupied in 1967," Erakat said.

Abbas also insisted Israel put an end to the demolition of Palestinian homes in Arab east Jerusalem and stop its practice of revoking ID cards of those living in the occupied and annexed sector of the Holy City, Erakat said.

Abbas' three-hour interview with the Israeli press, which included dinner, was portrayed in the newspapers as an attempt to appeal directly to the Israeli public in the absence of concrete progress in the negotiations.

"Now I tell you Israelis -- don't miss the opportunity the Arab League has offered you with its peace initiative," he was quoted as saying by the Haaretz daily. "Don't let me lose hope."

The so-called Arab peace initiative, which was presented by Saudi Arabia in 2002, offers Israel full normalisation of ties in return for its withdrawal from occupied Arab land and the creation of a Palestinian state.

Abbas also said he had reached a number of significant agreements on borders and security with former premier Ehud Olmert with the two drawing up a number of maps and documents -- all of which had been passed on to Mitchell.


First Published: Friday, July 02, 2010, 00:20

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