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July 22, 2013

Abbas: 'All options open' if peace talks fail

JERUSALEM — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned in comments published Monday that "all options are open" if the U.S. fails to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The comments, Abbas' first since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced last week that peace talks may resume for the first time in five years, may be an attempt to exert pressure on the U.S. and Israel to meet Palestinian demands on the terms of formal negotiations.

Israeli and Palestinian representatives are to hold preliminary talks in Washington soon. There, the sides are to work out the final details of what Kerry portrayed as broad agreement on the framework for restarting peace talks that collapsed in 2008.

Abbas did not name his other options, but referred to last year's upgrade of the Palestinian status at the U.N. At the time, the General Assembly accepted a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — lands Israel captured in 1967 — as a non-member observer state in a largely symbolic gesture.

Palestinian officials have said that in the absence of negotiations with Israel, they would seek further U.N. recognition, including membership in U.N. agencies and possible redress against Israeli policies at the International Criminal Court.

Israel fears that the Palestinian could make further gains in international bodies and use those positions to act against the Jewish state.

In an interview with Al Ra'i, Jordan's largest pro-government daily, Abbas portrayed last year's U.N. recognition as "the most important achievement for the Palestinian state in the past years."

The Palestinians want a state in the borders endorsed by the U.N. last year.

"If there is no agreement to push peace forward, all options are open," Abbas added, referring to a possible collapse of Kerry's mission.

The Jordanian newspaper spoke to Abbas on Friday and did not explain why it only published his comments Monday.

Despite Kerry's upbeat announcement last week, it remains unclear if preliminary Israeli-Palestinian meetings in Washington will lead to a resumption of actual negotiations on the terms of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Sunday night that the path to formal negotiations with Israel is still blocked.

The Washington talks are meant to "overcome the obstacles that still stand in the way of launching negotiations," he said.

Gaps remain on three issues Palestinians say need to be settled before talks can begin — the baseline for border talks, the extent of a possible Israeli settlement slowdown and a timetable for releasing long-detained Palestinian prisoners.

Israel has been insisting that that peace talks resume without preconditions and that all issues be resolved through dialogue.

Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief negotiator, said talks are "complex" but are vital.

"There is an opportunity not just to hold a dialogue with the Palestinians in order to end the conflict but a chance to form an alliance with the moderates in the region ... in order to act against the extremists," Livni told members of her party Monday.

 

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