x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Peace talks with Israel going nowhere, senior Palestinian says

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are proving pointless and will not bear fruit without much greater pressure from Washington, a top aide to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says.

RAMALLAH // Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are proving pointless and will not bear fruit without much greater pressure from Washington, a top aide to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday.

In the most damning Palestinian assessment to date, Yasser Abed Rabbo said that the negotiations, which started in July after a three year hiatus, had made no progress.

"These negotiations are futile and won't lead to any results," Mr Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio.

"I don't expect any progress at all unless there is huge and powerful American pressure, such as the one we are seeing from America to deal with the Syrian issue," added Mr Abed Rabbo, one of just two officials authorised by Mr Abbas to discuss the talks.

An Israeli official in prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office declined to comment on the remarks, saying the two sides had agreed that only the United States should speak about the talks. "We are abiding by that agreement," the official said.

The US state department said on Sunday that Israeli and Palestinian delegations had been meeting continuously since direct talks resumed on July 29, adding that a US envoy had taken part in one of the encounters.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has given the two sides nine months to work out their differences, with meetings going on in both Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Little information has leaked about the focus of the initial talks, but Mr Abed Rabbo said continued Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory occupied by Israel and wanted by the Palestinians for their future state, had undermined the negotiations.

"Israel did not commit to stopping settlements and we see the continuation of the settlement policy as destroying any possible chance of [a deal]," he said.

Israel announced tenders for, or advanced the planning process on about 3,100 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem last month. It brushed off Palestinian anger, saying the homes were destined for well-established settlements that it expected to keep as part of any final accord.

In a message marking the Jewish New Year, Mr Netanyahu said yesterday that he wanted "real and enduring peace ... not an agreement that we celebrate for two minutes and then collapses".

"This must be anchored on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and on our security. This is what ultimately is needed."

Both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas are due to meet Kerry separately in Europe in the coming week to discuss the negotiations.