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Israel rejects 'preconditions' for negotiations

Dec. 11, 2012 4:55 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 13, 2012 12:40 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel on Tuesday accused the Palestinian Authority of insisting on a settlement freeze before resuming talks as a way to avoid resuming the peace process.

"It seems that the Palestinian side is interested in the further development of preconditions. We reject this and are interested to negotiate without preconditions," said Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Earlier, the political adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated the position that negotiations would not resume without a freeze in settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

During a meeting in Ramallah with British officials, Nimr Hammad said Israel's settlement construction was making a two-state solution impossible and that credible negotiations could not restart until Israel stopped building on Palestinian land.

Abbas' adviser added that the international community must mediate and arbitrate between Israel and Palestine, the official Wafa news agency reported.

Gendelman told Ma'an that settlement building was not an obstacle to talks and that international pressure should focus on urging Palestine, not Israel, to return to negotiations.

"Israel does not need international pressure to return to negotiations," Gendelman said. "We must put pressure on the Palestinian side, which refuses to recognize Israel and negotiate with it."

The PLO recognized Israel in 1993.

Europe's failure to vote against Palestine's bid to upgrade its status at the UN "encouraged" Palestinians to pursue unilateral steps, Gendelman said. The Czech republic was the only European country to vote against admitting Palestine as a non-member state of the UN.

Israel announced new settlement plans shortly after the UN General Assembly approved Palestine's status upgrade.

The European Union on Monday said it was "deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements," after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels.

Gendelman said the EU statement encouraged the Palestinians not to return to talks.

On Monday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority planned to launch a new six-month initiative to renew talks with Israel in January.

The initiative will demand an end to the occupation, the release of prisoners and a settlement freeze.
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