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Palestinian FM warns Israel over settlement building - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki listens during a press conference with Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy (unseen) in Ramallah on August 26, 2013. (AFP)

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki listens during a press conference with Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy (unseen) in Ramallah on August 26, 2013. (AFP)

Tangiers, Asharq Al-Awsat—Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki on Thursday denied reports that the Palestinian Authority has taken the decision to halt negotiations with Israel. He confirmed that while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has received the resignation of the Palestinian negotiating delegation, he has yet to take a final decision on this issue.

In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat from the Moroccan city of Tangiers, Maliki stressed that no Palestinian official has said that the newly resumed negotiations with Israel have stalled. He said: “All that we said was that if the latest announcement issued by the Israeli side regarding the construction of 24,000 new settlement units was implemented . . . that would mean the end of the negotiating process.”

The Palestinian negotiating team, including senior negotiator Saeb Erekat, handed in their resignation to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this week. In a subsequent statement, the team revealed that this move was motivated by a number of factors, including “an unprecedented escalation of colonization and oppression against Palestine and the Palestinian people, a lack of seriousness from the Israeli government about reaching a two-state solution, and Tel Aviv’s failure to fulfill commitments undertaken before the resumption of direct negotiations.”

“It is time for the international community and the Quartet members to stop treating Israel as a government above the laws of man and hold them accountable,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Al Jazeera America.

The Palestinian foreign minister described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordering his housing minister to “reconsider” the controversial settlement construction plans as being a “maneuver.”

“We question this statement, and we believe there is a breakdown of roles between the Israeli housing minister and the prime minister in order for this issue to be lost between them. They are trying to give the impression to the international community that nothing new will happen. We are saying, according to our own experiences with Israel over long years, that the only thing that the Israeli occupation is concerned about is preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state and continuing its occupation over Palestinian Territories,” Maliki told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He added: “It is imperative that we avoid falling into this Israeli trap and continue to pressure Israel to actually reverse this decision. We are also calling on the international community to send delegations to verify Israel’s commitment to stop settlement activity on Palestinian territory.”

Maliki affirmed that the Palestinian negotiating team’s resignation was down to Israeli transgressions, particularly its ongoing settlement-building activity. He said: “The resignation came as a result of deteriorating conditions related to the negotiations, not just the announcement of thousands of new settlement units or the breaches of Al-Aqsa Mosque or the attacks being carried out by settlers.”

He confirmed that the Palestinians have called on Washington to intervene on behalf of the international community and ensure that the negotiations remain on track.