JERUSALEM (AFP) – Palestinians will not restart peace talks with Israel unless it removes all roadblocks and freezes settlement activity in the West Bank, top negotiator Ahmad Qorei said in an interview on Tuesday.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will present the conditions during his first official meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington on Thursday, Qorei said in an interview with the Haaretz daily.
“There will be no negotiations without a complete cessation of the settlements, including what you call ‘natural growth,'” he said, referring to construction in existing settlement blocks.
“There will be no negotiations without an evacuation of the outposts established since 2001,” he said, referring to settlements in the occupied West Bank built without authorisation from the Israeli government.
“Before the negotiations, Israel will have to remove also all the internal roadblocks that dissect the West Bank,” he said, referring to the more than 600 barriers that Israel erected in the aftermath of the second Palestinian intifada that severely hamper freedom of movement in the West Bank.
Qorei reiterated the Palestinians’ refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state as demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of a final agreement.
It “was not our business. Call your state whatever you wish,” he said.
Qorei said that while the “right of return” of refugees was “one of the Palestinians’ rights. The question of how to relate to this right is up for negotiations. We have to find a balanced formula.”
Finally, the former Palestinian premier said that Israel would not be able to annex large settlement blocks like Maale Adumim east of Jerusalem as part of a final settlement.
“Those residents of Maale Adumim or Ariel (another settlement deep inside the West Bank in the north) who would rather stay in their homes could live under Palestinian rule and law, just like the Israeli Arabs who live among you,” he said.
“They could hold Palestinian and Israeli nationalities. If they want it – welcome,” he said.
In previous negotiations, Israel has demanded that it keep major settlement blocks in the West Bank as part of land swaps.
Palestinians and Israelis relaunched their peace talks under US auspices in November 2007, but the negotiations made little progress over the next year and were put on ice during Israel’s war in Gaza in December-January.