RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas again called for a halt to Israeli settlement building before he would resume peace talks with Israel, accusing it of trying to scupper Palestinian statehood.
Addressing supporters of his Fatah party in Ramallah on the 5th anniversary of the death of his predecessor Yasser Arafat, Abbas said United Nations resolutions called for there to be a “clear framework” for talks to end over 60 years of conflict.
“We cannot go to negotiations without a framework. And we say the framework is U.N. resolutions, meaning a return to the 1967 borders,” Abbas said. “What’s new in this demand?
“Also, we want a full stop to settlements, including natural growth and in Jerusalem,” the 74-year-old leader said.
Abbas added that “resuming negotiations requires Israeli government commitment to the framework of the peace process, which includes halting settlement activity, including natural growth and which includes Jerusalem.”
“Without this, I will not agree,” he told supporters.
He accused Israel of trying to thwart the internationally backed “two-state solution” that would bring a Palestinian state into being alongside Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out going beyond a partial limitation on Jewish settlement building in areas of the occupied West Bank not annexed by Israel to its Jerusalem municipality.
Despite criticism of settlements by U.S. President Barack Obama, Washington has increased pressure on Abbas in recent weeks to resume negotiations, which were suspended a year ago, without waiting for further Israeli limitations on settlement.
Abbas rejects that approach and aides say his disenchantment with Obama’s apparent shift in emphasis over settlements was behind his announcement last week that he would prefer not to stand in a presidential election he has called for January.
Many analysts see the elections and the threat to quit as part of a negotiating tactic on the part of Abbas. His Islamist rivals in Hamas, who control the Gaza Strip, have ruled out holding elections there, leading many analysts familiar with the situation to conclude that a vote in January is highly unlikely.
Abbas told supporters on Wednesday that he still had his hand extended to Hamas, offering a reconciliation after the violent schism that split the Palestinians in 2007.
But he said he did not want to talk again about his decision not to run for a second term. He has not so far made clear whether he would stay on if no elections were in fact held.
Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967. Abbas wants to found a Palestinian state in the two main territories, with its capital in Jerusalem.