Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—It is premature to talk about the failure of the latest round of US-backed Palestinian–Israeli peace talks, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Erekat said the Palestinian negotiating team remains in contact with Washington over reviving the stalled peace talks, though he denied the Palestinians were in “secret” talks with the Israelis.
Erekat’s comments come as US President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, is visiting Israel. The senior aide to the US president is in Tel Aviv for talks regarding the prospects of a nuclear deal with Iran, but it is likely she will also seek to discuss the faltering Palestinian–Israeli negotiations.
US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf had earlier this week described the talks as “suspended,” but denied that US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has led US efforts to mediate the talks, was disbanding his negotiations team.
“As we assess the next steps in the US efforts to achieve Israeli–Palestinian peace—it is premature, quite frankly, to speculate on what those steps will be or what will happen,” she said.
Erekat said Tel Aviv was responsible for obstructing the peace talks, which officially ended on April 29 without a hoped-for “framework” agreement or extension.
“Israel is responsible for the disruption of negotiations and undermining the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry, choosing settlement-building and dictates over peace,” he said.
Erekat particularly criticized Tel Aviv’s negative reaction to the Hamas–Fatah reconciliation, pulling out of the peace talks one week before the end of negotiations. “You cannot talk about the two state solution without this [reconciliation], as it lays the foundations for the establishment of the Palestinian state.”
As for the possibility of reviving the peace talks, Erekat told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Israel knows that the key to reviving the peace process is a complete halt to settlement-building and accepting sitting at the negotiating table to draw the map of the two states according to the 1967 borders, as well as releasing the fourth batch of prisoners. This is what we proposed to them before and what we have continued to propose until today.”