x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Abbas on European tour to raise pressure against Israel

The Palestinian Authority president is to meet British prime minister David Cameron in London today during the first leg of a European tour meant to galvanise pressure against Israel.

JERUSALEM // The Palestinian Authority president is to meet British prime minister David Cameron in London today during the first leg of a European tour meant to galvanise pressure against Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas's week-long foray has been billed as an attempt to highlight concerns over Israeli-settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - Palestinian territories occupied by Israel.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, Mr Abbas's spokesman, described it as an effort to seek international support to pressure Israel and salvage "what remained of the peace process", in a statement published on Thursday by the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

The trip, which will include stops in Germany and Russia, comes after Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met on Saturday in the Jordanian capital. It was their third face-to-face meeting in Amman this year, part of an effort by the Middle East peace Quartet - the US, EU, Russia and the UN - to restart the formal peace negotiations that collapsed in September 2010 because of Israeli settlement construction.

Neither side has expressed much enthusiasm about the Amman meetings, sponsored by Jordan's ruler, King Abdullah II, despite hopes by the Quartet for a breakthrough before January 26.

This is the deadline it set for the Israeli envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, and his Palestinian counterpart, Saeb Erekat, to exchange proposals on borders and security arrangements regarding a Palestinian state.

Palestinian officials have said they would not continue with the discussions after the deadline expires if Israel does not meet two demands: a halt to settlement construction and an agreement to use as a basis for future talks, Israel's borders that prevailed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

"The Amman talks are intended to obtain a settlement freeze and the use of the 1967 lines as a reference for future talks, and will be given a chance to succeed until January 26," Saeb Erekat said after a meeting with Mr Molcho on Tuesday.

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has refused both demands.

The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reported yesterday that the Israeli leader was considering offering proposals on security and borders to the Palestinians in March.

The newspaper said he would like to hold a peace summit with Mr Abbas at that time, after continuing with the Amman talks beyond this month's deadline.

But this is unlikely to satisfy Palestinian officials, who are grappling with a surge in Jewish settlement construction. Last year, Israel approved the largest number of new settler structures in more than a decade, according to a recent report by Peace Now, an Israeli non-governmental organisation.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, yesterday voiced concerns about Israeli settlements, calling them "illegal" during a conference in Beirut.

"They work against the emergence of a viable Palestinian state," he said, adding that a "two-state solution is long overdue. The status quo offers only the guarantee of future conflict".

On Thursday, Britain's The Independent newspaper also reported that Europe was not hopeful about the viability of a future Palestinian state, citing an internal EU report that called the existence of Palestinians living in swathes of the West Bank as "continuously undermined" by Israel.

hnaylor@thenational.ae


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