Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—A meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry planned for Thursday in London “does not mean” US-led peace talks between Israel and Palestine will resume, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Rather, Thursday’s meeting came “at the request of the Americans to discuss a number of important issues,” said the Executive Committee member, Wasel Abu Youssef. He said the talks would also cover the Hamas–Fatah reconciliation agreement and the formation of a technocratic unity government to oversee the West Bank and Gaza, and American–Palestinian relations.
Kerry will be in London to take part in the Friends of Syria conference. His meeting with Abbas will be the first since Israel announced the suspension of negotiations in response to the accord signed by Fatah and Hamas on April 23, in which both sides agreed to form a Palestinian national unity government headed by Abbas.
The deadline in the latest round of peace talks expired on April 29, and in the intervening weeks American officials have expressed a desire to rethink their involvement in the longstanding conflict. Speaking about the purpose of Thursday’s meeting, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement on Monday: “While the door remains open to a peace process, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss our ongoing relationship with the Palestinians.”
Abu Youssef said: “There is no change at all in the Palestinian position regarding the return to negotiations, and the president will inform Kerry of the conditions to restart them, which are the release of the fourth batch of prisoners held since before the Oslo Accord, an immediate and complete end to settlement activity, and the recognition by Israel of the 1967 borders as borders of the Palestinian state and a reference [point] for the negotiations.”
Abu Youssef added that this was also position announced by the PLO’s Central Committee, and downplayed chances of a breakthrough in London, saying it was an “evaluation and consultation meeting.”
He also played down fears that the US would cut its funding of the Palestinian Authority—typically worth around 400 million US dollars a year—if Fatah forms a national unity government with Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist organization.
A 2006 law bars the US from funding a “Hamas-controlled Palestinian authority.”
“The Americans know that it will be a technocratic government and will not include members of the factions,” he said.
The Israeli government has repeatedly said it will not negotiate with a government which includes Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel.
Meanwhile, Palestinians are putting forward an alternative plan if the current stalemate in the peace process continues. Abu Youssef said: “If the current American efforts fail, a decision has been made to join all international charters and treaties without exception, and to activate the role of popular resistance.”
Abbas is also expected to meet a number of British officials while in London, including Prime Minister David Cameron. He will then head to Venezuela for a two-day official visit.