Ramallah (West Bank): The Palestinian president on has appealed to Israelis to choose peace over settlements, saying that opportunities for a peace deal must not be wasted.
Mahmoud Abbas spoke to thousands of flag-waving supporters at a rally in the West Bank, marking the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat.
Abbas` bitter political rival, the Islamic militant Hamas, suppressed all Arafat commemorations in the Gaza strip, a sign of the deepening political rift despite renewed attempts by the two sides to reconcile.
Washington launched Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in September, but negotiations foundered a month later when Israel resumed building new homes for Jews in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories the Palestinians claim for a future state. The Palestinians say they won`t resume negotiations until all building stops. The United States has so far failed to broker a compromise.
About halfway through his speech today, Abbas sent an appeal to the Israelis, urging them not to waste peace opportunities.
"I now turn to the Israeli people," he said. "I hope they will hear us - those who believe in peace, if they exist."
"Making peace is more important than settlements," he said. "A comprehensive and fair peace is more precious than anything else."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he won`t renew a 10-month ban on construction in West Bank settlements that expired in September and that he will not curb building in east Jerusalem.