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Fatah official: PA clinging to Quartet statement

Aug. 22, 2010 10:11 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 26, 2010 10:12 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority is basing its hopes on the Mideast Quartet statement, issued Friday, rather than anything said by American officials, Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad said Sunday.

Quartet members the US, UN, EU and Russia issued the statement after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas to restart direct talks on 2 September in Washington.

Clinton also invited Netanyahu, Abbas, the Egyptian president, Jordan’s king and Quartet envoy Tony Blair to dine with US President Barack Obama at the White House on 1 September.

Al-Ahmad, a Fatah Central Committee member, says that if the US does not adhere to the Quartet statement, "Obama’s invitation will not be more than a dinner party. There will not be real negotiations; they might not even be launched."

While Clinton insists that the talks should renew "without preconditions," the Quartet reaffirmed its commitment to previous statements including one on 19 March which called on both sides to adhere to the Road Map and specifically demanded that Israel "freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth."

Abbas had insisted that talks would not resume without an end to settlement construction in occupied Palestinian territory, a request Netanyahu refused as a "precondition."

Welcoming Clinton's invitation, Netanyahu said Friday that he was "pleased with the American clarification that the talks would be without preconditions."

Abbas accepted the invitation but warned Sunday that continued settlement expansion would derail the talks.

Al-Ahmad noted that the remarks made by US Quartet envoy George Mitchell, which followed Clinton’s announcement, contradicted those outlined in the Quartet statement.

The Fatah official said that while the PA considered the Quartet statement to be a reference for talks, Mitchell said the agenda for talks would not be set in advance but would be worked out during negotiations.

The talks will fail, Al-Ahmad says, unless the agenda is set in advance.

Al-Ahmad also questioned the decision not to invite Quartet members to the talks, referring particularly to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU representatives.

Further, Al-Ahmad said Qatari leader Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Ath-Thani should be invited to talks due to his role in the Arab League committee to follow up the Arab Initiative.
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