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PLO effectively rejects Quartet proposal to resume talks

Sept. 29, 2011 5:43 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 1, 2011 12:46 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Reuters) -- The PLO on Thursday effectively rejected a proposal by the European Union, the United States and Russia to resume suspended peace negotiations with Israel next month without preconditions.

The PLO executive committee, meeting in Ramallah, noted the proposal but said, as expected, that Israel must halt all settlement building in the occupied West Bank before they will restart talks, as President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted.

"The Palestinian leadership stresses clearly that it cannot accept holding negotiations that lack the minimum limits of responsibility and seriousness amid the continuation of settlements and stealing of land," said PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo.

Abbas last Friday formally asked the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move strongly opposed by Israel and the United States who say only a negotiated peace can end the 63-year-old Middle East conflict and create a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The Quartet proposal for breaking the deadlock had little chance. Abbas' diplomatic initiative has set the Palestinians on a new course to circumvent a peace process that he says has achieved nothing over the past 18 years, and Abbas is unlikely to abandon it unless Israel agreed to his terms for talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging Abbas to return to negotiations without preconditions.

Abed Rabbo also noted that a fresh Israeli decision by Jerusalem municipality Monday to build 1,100 new homes for Jews on annexed land in the occupied West Bank, was a proof for Israel's lack of interest in peace.

"This new decision regarding the settlements and its timing, during the meeting of the General Assembly and the statement of the world Quartet, comes to assure that Israel is not ready to respect the international will and the basics of the peace process, and the decisions of the world Quartet," Abed Rabbo said.

The European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- known as the "Quartet" -- tried for months but failed to draft "terms of reference" that might breathe life into peace talks that collapsed nearly a year ago.

Instead, in a bid to defuse a clash over the UN initiative, and an American veto, they issued a statement calling for preparatory talks in a month, substantive proposals from both sides on borders and security within three months, and a peace deal by the end of 2012.

Abed Rabbo did not expressly reject the Quartet proposal. He told reporters the PLO had "noted" it and said it included some "encouraging items."

The UN Security Council on Wednesday took its first step on the UN application, handing it to a committee that will review and assess it in the coming weeks.

The standing committee on the admission of new members to the world body is comprised of all 15 council members. Western diplomats say the bid is doomed to fail due to US opposition.

The PLO executive committee urged the Security Council to accept statehood.

The foreign minister in the West Bank government said Thursday that eight Security Council members are guaranteed to vote in favor of the bid for full membership of the United Nations.

“The Palestinian Authority is now working to secure the ninth vote,” Riyad al-Malki told Voice of Palestine radio, adding that the PA will seek either Colombia or Bosnia-Herzegovina's vote.
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