MIDDLE EASTPOLITICS

Palestinians head for Washington for peace talks

Barack_Obama_meets_with_Mahmoud_Abbas_in_the_Oval_Office_2009-05-28_1A high-ranking Palestinian delegation will leave for Washington on Monday for talks with U.S. officials in a bid to rescue the stalled Middle East peace process with Israel, a senior Palestinian official unveiled on Sunday.

Ahmed Majdalani, official in Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told Xinhua that veteran Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat will chair the senior Palestinian delegation.

“The Palestinian delegation will hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his aides,” said Majdalani, adding “the talks between the two sides will focus on how to rescue the stalled peace process with Israel and see how to go ahead and resume it.”

During the donors’ conference held in Cairo to donate for reconstructing the Gaza Strip, Kerry and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed that a senior Palestinian delegation should head to Washington in the first week of November and hold talks on resuming the stalled peace process.

“The Palestinian leadership was unofficially informed that Washington intends to present a series of proposals to discuss and debate with the Palestinian delegation in order to get out of the current impasse and end the stalemate in the Middle East peace process,” said Majdalani.

He added that the Palestinian delegation will present a firm position that the direct peace talks with Israel “can never be resumed in accordance to the previous forms and shapes amid a continuation of settlement activities and more restrictions and security measures in Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

“The delegation will clearly inform Kerry that the peace talks can only be resumed in accordance to new principles and basics; first of all is to recognize the 1967 borders as the borders of the future Palestinian state and second is to start drawing the borders and treat all other permanent status issues,” he said.

Ties between Israel and the Palestinians have been tensed for several months, and this tension has recently grown due to deterioration in the security situation in east Jerusalem and at al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the most holy shrines for all Muslims all over the world.

On Sept. 3, Erekat met with Kerry in Washington. During that meeting, the Palestinians presented to the U.S. an official political plan, aiming at a resolution from the United Nations Security Council in order to end the Israeli military occupation and establish a Palestinian state.

Palestinian officials had said that Washington rejected the Palestinian plan and considered it a unilateral plan that will be made away from the direct peace negotiations.

When Abbas addressed the UN General Assembly in September, he presented a draft of the Palestinian political plan to the secretariat of the UN Security Council. The Palestinian delegation will also debate the political plan with Kerry in Washington this week, said Majdalani.

The last direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which were sponsored by the United States, stopped in last March. It went on for nine months, but it hasn’t achieved any tangible progress due to deep differences on settlement issue and the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Earlier last week, the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Reyad al-Malki announced that any progress in the Middle East peace process and any U.S. move to resume the direct talks with Israel are “linked to the Palestinians’ decision to go for the UN Security Council to end the Israeli occupation.”

Al-Malki said that the Palestinians see no contradiction between any U.S. move to rescue the peace process and the decision to go to the Security Council. The Palestinians are concerned over a U.S. veto against the Palestinian and Arab-backed draft resolution that will be presented to the Security Council.

Ahmad Rafiq Awad, political science professor at Beir Zeit University in the West Bank, told Xinhua he expects that Washington will increase its pressure on the Palestinians in order to prevent the Palestinians from going to the UN Security Council for a Palestinian state.

Source: Xinhua

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