PLO urges Abbas to quit peace talks over settlements

The Palestinian leadership today urged president Mahmud Abbas to quit US-backed peace talks over Israeli settlement construction.

Ramallah: The Palestinian leadership today urged president Mahmud Abbas to quit US-backed peace talks over Israeli settlement construction, his spokesman said.

"Our position has not changed. We will not hold negotiations while settlement activity continues," Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP after a special meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and top officials from Abbas`s Fatah movement.

He added, however, that the Palestinians would continue consultations with US mediators and would present the results of those talks to an Arab League meeting on Friday in
the Libyan city of Sirte.
Abbas had said he would make his final decision on whether to pull out of the talks, which were launched in Washington one month ago today, after he consults with the
Arab foreign ministers.

The PLO, a Fatah-dominated umbrella group headed by Abbas that includes most Palestinian factions but not the militant Hamas, is the Palestinians` sole international

Fatah, meanwhile, appeared to have adopted an even harder line on the negotiations, with one member of the movement`s central committee suggesting the international community reconsider Israel`s existence.

"The ball is now in the court of the international community to stop the unilateral aggression on Palestinian lands on which a Palestinian state must be established," said
Jibril Rajub told reporters.
If the world cannot do that, then it should reexamine the legitimacy of the continued existence of the state of Israel, which was established with an international birth

The Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace talks will meet to form its own position on Friday in Sirte, officials in Cairo said, after the meeting was twice

Abbas -- who previously secured the endorsement of the group of Arab foreign ministers for launching indirect peace talks and then again for upgrading to direct talks -- plans to
make his announcement after the meeting.

The Palestinian leader had frequently threatened to walk out of the direct negotiations launched exactly one month ago if Israel allowed a 10-month moratorium on new West Bank settler homes to expire on September 26.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allowed the restrictions to end despite US pressure, but has said he will restrain settlement construction and repeatedly urged the
Palestinians to continue the talks.

US envoy George Mitchell held meetings with both sides last week before heading off to meet with Arab leaders in a bid to keep the peace talks alive, but Abbas`s spokesman said
Saturday there had been "no breakthrough."

The Palestinians have long viewed the presence of some 500,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem as a major obstacle to the establishment of a viable state.

The international community considers all settlements illegal.