RAMALLAH, Jan. 10 (JMCC) - The chief Palestinian negotiator said Saturday that Israel should institute a complete settlement freeze before talks between the two parties.
A resumption of peace talks requires the complete halt of settlements in the occupied West Bank, Saeb Erakat told AFP.
Erekat's statements appear to contradict a new US negotiations push taking shape. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the press Friday after a meeting with her Jordanian counterpart that resolving the issue of borders would be the first issue on the table at the talks.
Resolving borders resolves settlements. Resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements, the chief US diplomat told reporters after meeting Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Washington.
We are working with the Israelis, the (Palestinian Authority), and the Arab states to take the steps needed to relaunch the negotiations as soon as possible and without preconditions, Clinton said.
But Palestinians appear to be standing by their demand that Israel stop constructing settlements before a return to negotiations. Speaking to his own party last month, President Mahmoud Abbas indicated that such a freeze could be secret and last only a number of months.
In November, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a ten-month settlement freeze that excluded Jerusalem and the natural growth of existing settlements.
The US adminstration is dispatching envoy George Mitchell to the region later this month to pursue its initiative.