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Abbas: Settlements destroying two-state dream

Sept. 25, 2009 8:51 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 27, 2009 10:54 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israel's ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestinian land remains the greatest threat to the two-state solution, President Mahmoud Abbas said at the United Nations on Friday.

In an address to the General Assembly in New York, he said Israel's decades-long policy of building settlements in occupied territory "will undermine the goal of establishing a geographically contiguous Palestinian state," and called on the country to reverse course.

Abbas warned, "Time is short and the risks are accumulating because of the continued suffering of the Palestinian people, who are weighed down by the last foreign occupation in the world."

His speech came one day after a hard-hitting address from Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister who has in recent months rebuffed worldwide calls for a settlement freeze in advance of negotiations.

Although the Palestine Liberation Organization remains committed to achieving a "comprehensive, just peace based on international legitimacy," Abbas insisted, Israel's refusal to momentarily stop building settlements has eliminated any chance of resuming talks.

"How is it conceivable that negotiations can be held on borders and Jerusalem when Israeli bulldozers are working to change the reality on the ground... and imposing borders as Israel desires?" he said. "How can one conceive holding negotiations without agreement on the terms of reference and the objective and goal of these negotiations that the whole world has unanimously agreed upon?"

Applauding Barack Obama's address two days earlier that had "inspired the people of the region" by calling for talks based on an eventual end to Israel's occupation that began in 1967, Abbas said, "We affirm that adherence to this basis, in addition to the complete freeze of the settlement activities, can salvage the peace process and open horizons for its success."

Abbas also called on Israel to "release the 10,000 prisoners and detainees, and to lift the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip." He added that Israel's assault there last winter, in which at least 1,400 Palestinians were killed, "wrought unprecedented destruction of infrastructure, and public facilities."
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