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Ramallah protest rejects negotiations

Jan. 14, 2012 7:37 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 16, 2012 10:22 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinians rallied Saturday against steps toward renewing negotiations with Israel, gathering outside the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

"If you're against negotiations, honk your car's horn," protesters chanted.

Sympathetic drivers joined the demonstrators calling for the PLO to cease involvement in bilateral meetings in Jordan.

A gathering of young men and women also chose to protest silently to show the youth's rejection of negotiations being attended by the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership.

They urged decision-makers to obey the will of the Palestinian people and to boycott Israel politically, economically, academically and culturally and to prepare for PLO elections.

Among the signs held by protesters: "No to resuming negotiations, yes to returning refugees," "No negotiations with settlements," and "The people aren't idiots".

"Negotiations mean more settlements, prisoners, confiscations," another sign said.

The activists are urging direct elections to the PLO's Palestinian National Council, which in theory represents the entire Palestinian population all around the world.

They also urged the PLO leadership to stick to prior announcements that negotiations would not continue until Israel agreed to a full freeze of settlement activity in the occupied territories.

Israeli and PLO envoys held their third round of face-to-face meetings this year on Saturday in what diplomats hoped might lead to the resumption of full peace talks, sources on each side said.

The exploratory discussions began on Jan. 3 and followed a long break in negotiations after President Mahmoud Abbas suspended talks 15 months ago over Israel's expansion of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Abbas on Thursday played down prospects of any breakthrough, telling members of his Fatah party that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had not put forward any new proposals.

"The words that we heard in Netanyahu's residence (in 2010) are the same words he is repeating now, nothing new," Abbas said, adding that he had told US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the apparent lack of progress.

Abbas is traveling to London, Berlin and Moscow to discuss the situation.

The "Quartet" of international peace mediators -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- sought in October to revive the peace talks, which broke down weeks after they began in 2010.

The Quartet wants the two sides to state their positions on the borders and security arrangements of a future "two-state solution" by Jan. 26 to help open the door to a resumption of full negotiations.

US officials have signaled that the Jan. 26 target date for the two sides to exchange proposals could slide.
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