The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Saturday rejected a U.S. call for resuming the stalled peace talks with Israel without preconditions, demanding a full settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Hundreds of Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli soldiers in Ramallah on Friday, January 8, 2010, following the deaths of three Palestinians, including a 14-year-old-boy in earlier Israeli air strikes overnight in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of Palestinians are injured during the clash. [Photo: Sina.com.cn]
Meanwhile, Gaza Strip ruling Islamic Hamas movement warned the PNA against any resumption and cautioned that Israel will be the only beneficiary of the peace talks.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Xinhua in a telephone interview that it is unacceptable, "since the U.S. administration's calls don't include a total freeze of settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, and don't include a timetable for resuming the talks."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said that the United States is working with Israeli and Palestinian authorities, as well as Arab states, namely Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, to resume the peace negotiations "as soon as possible and without preconditions."
Clinton made the remarks after meeting Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh, adding that Washington is to renew its commitment and increase efforts in persuading the parties to return to the talks.
The two officials called on the Palestinians and Israel to tackle the thorny issues of borders and the status of Jerusalem first, saying resolving the two issues would automatically resolve the dispute over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a major obstacle in the peace process.
But Erekat said that Clinton "neglected the Arab position" that Israel must halt the building of Jewish settlements all-over the West Bank as well as in the occupied East Jerusalem." Clinton also failed to "endorse the principle of the two-state solution," Erekat said.
"How should we negotiate on the Palestinian state's boundaries while the Israeli bulldozers and settlements are eating up the land that we want to build our state on?" Erekat said. "The settlement expansions must stop to give a chance for the negotiations to succeed."
Erekat stressed that the negotiations must restart from the point they stopped at during the era of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The peace talks came to a standstill when Israel launched a military offensive against the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and efforts to restart them have failed due to the continuation of Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
On Friday, Israeli Ha'aretz daily reported that the United States studies the possibilities of holding indirect negotiations between Israel and the PNA.
"But (Palestinian) President Mahmoud Abbas still rejects the resumption of any talks before halting the Israeli settlements," the report said.
Erekat denied that the PNA has received such kind offers over resuming indirect peace talks with Israel, saying that, "So far we haven't received any official U.S. offers."