Abbas: Israel must choose between settlements, peace

On the sidelines of a meeting with prominent Jewish and French media personalities in Paris, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel would have to choose "between settlements and peace."

“Israel must make this choice in order for negotiations to continue, otherwise it will all be a waste of time," he said.

Abbas also praised Egypt for the role it had played in the peace process. “Cairo always gives its utmost effort," he said.

According to Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath, the PA agreed with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Washington that negotiations would be halted if Israel continued building Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

A ten-month moratorium on Israeli settlement building expired on Sunday at midnight.

"It seems the Americans were unable to convince the Israelis on this point,” Shaath said, "thereby destroying the peace process."

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoided mentioning his government’s stance on the settlement issue and urged Abbas to continue the talks.

Netanyahu went on to say he was willing to reach a “historic” peace agreement with the Palestinians within a year. He added that he was in contact with the leaders of the United States, Egypt and Jordan so as to ensure that the Palestinians would not withdraw from the talks over the settlement issue.

PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaina said the PA’s final stance on negotiations would be determined after a 4 October meeting of the Arab Peace Initiative Monitoring Committee and after Israel’s final response to US proposals had been issued.

However, Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post quoted sources as saying that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to a US-mediated proposal to continue negotiations for another week until a compromise could be reached.

Hamas Political Bureau President Khaled Meshaal, for his part, urged the PA to fulfill its promise and withdraw from the talks as long as Israel refused to halt settlement building.

“The response to the Zionist position lies in reconciliation between the Palestinian factions, so as not to go to war without weapons," he said.

In a related development, The New York Times reported that Israel had rejected US pleas to extend its settlement freeze, which it described as a "new setback" for US President Barack Obama's ostensible efforts to resolve the conflict.

The newspaper also reported that Israeli settlers had marked the end of the settlement freeze by resuming construction of a number of settlements in the West Bank.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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