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Abbas tells Kerry: We are committed to peace

April 7, 2013 9:28 P.M. (Updated: April 7, 2013 10:52 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Palestinians were committed to achieving peace.

At a meeting in Ramallah, Abbas said the Palestinians were a peaceful people who were willing to cooperate with international efforts to achieve peace, the official Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa reported.

Palestinians seek a state on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, the president said.

He added that settlements could not be tolerated, particularly Israel's planned E1 settlement project which would divide the West Bank and isolate Jerusalem.

The president reiterated that the PLO would only return to negotiations with Israel if it stopped building illegal settlements and released all prisoners, particularly those detained before the Oslo Accords were signed.

The US secretary of state arrived in Israel on Sunday for a new round of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on how to break a years-long impasse in direct peace negotiations.

Kerry headed straight for Ramallah where he met Abbas for their third meeting in just over a month.

He last met Abbas in Amman on March 23, when the president told him that Israeli settlements "endanger" peace efforts, while flagging up the need to address the flashpoint issue of prisoners held in Israeli jails.

The two had previously held talks in Riyadh on March 4 in their first meeting since Kerry took over as secretary of state.

Ahead of the meeting, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Abbas was likely to just listen to what Kerry had to say,

"We will just listen to him. Kerry listened to our position, and we will listen to him to see if he will bring something new," he told AFP on Saturday.

"This meeting was called by Kerry, and President Abbas will meet him to see what he has because the United States knows our position clearly."

When Abbas hosted Obama for talks in Ramallah last month, the president made clear there would be no return to negotiations without a settlement freeze.

But he has also made it known he would suspend for two months all unilateral efforts to seek international recognition to give US-brokered efforts a chance, a Palestinian official told AFP last week.

Abbas also wants Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to present a map of the borders of a future Palestinian state before talks can resume.

Abbas "wants to know, through a map to be presented by Benjamin Netanyahu to Kerry, what the prime minister's view of a two-state solution would be, especially the borders," his political adviser Nimr Hammad told AFP.

"Any return to negotiations requires Netanyahu to agree on 1967 borders," Hammad said of the lines which existed before the Six Day War when Israel took over the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has on several occasions said he would not accept a return to the 1967 borders.

Kerry was on Monday to take part in a ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day before talks with Palestinian Authority premier Salam Fayyad in the afternoon, and then a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

He will meet Netanyahu on Tuesday morning before leaving for London.

Expectations have been growing that Washington is ready to resume some kind of shuttle diplomacy to rekindle the moribund peace process, but the State Department has sought to downplay expectations.

Speaking in Istanbul, Kerry urged Israel and Turkey to quickly rebuild their shattered relationship after an Israeli apology for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals during a botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in May 2010, ended a nearly three-year diplomatic rift.

"We would like to see this relationship that is important to stability in the Middle East, critical to the peace process itself, we would like to see this relationship back on track in its full measure," he said.
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