RAMALLAH Feb. 1 (JMCC) - Israel must accept the precepts of the peace process before Palestinians will return to direct talks, said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday.
If there is any substance in the response from the Israeli side – for example, if they accept the framework of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and an end to occupation, with timelines and mechanisms – then there will be progress, Abbas told the Guardian in a London interview.
The Palestinian leader said that were Israel to stop building settlements for three months and accept the 1967 borders, Palestinians would be prepared to return to direct negotiations.
In the interim, however, Abbas appeared to accept new proposals for low-level talks mediated by US envoy George Mitchell.
The interview is part of a media blitz in which Palestinians seek to explain their objection to a return to negotiations.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat gave a detailed interview to al-Jazeera television Friday in which he described, using maps, where negotiations had left off in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007.
While Palestinians have accepted the principle of a land swap, trading land on which stand Israeli settlements for equivalent land within Israel, Erekat said, disputes remain over where those swaps might take place.
Talks should return where they left off, Erekat said, and Israel should be required to fulfill its committments under the road map. Erekat was referring to attempts by the United States to offer letters of assurances that would change the references of the peace process, and move directly to negotiations over borders.
We don't need American support for Palestinians, Erekat told al-Jazeera interviewer Walid al-Omari. We need the Americans to require Israel to fulfill its committments.
Israel has stopped some settlement construction for 10 months, but refuses to halt building in East Jerusalem and construction based on natural growth of settlers in the occupied West Bank.