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Palestinian delegation headed by Erekat to arrive in US next week

Dec. 10, 2016 11:22 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 13, 2016 4:25 P.M.)
Saeb Erekat talks after an Arab Peace Initiative Committee meeting in 2012 (AFP)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A senior-level Palestinian delegation headed by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat is set to arrive in the United States capitol in the coming days to discuss bilateral relations between the two states, an official Palestinian source told Ma’an.

Israeli daily Haaretz cited anonymous Palestinian officials and "Western diplomats" as saying that a main goal of the meetings is to discuss a future United Nations Security Council resolution against illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

According to the report, an official from the office of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the outgoing Obama administration is not likely accept the draft resolution in its current form, and discussions would be geared toward negotiating a version that would avoid an American veto when the resolution is introduced to the UNSC, reportedly scheduled for January.

Haaretz said that the delegation will also incldue the future Palestinian ambassador in Washington, Husam Zumlut head of the Palestinian general intelligence service, Majid Faraj, adding that Faraj and Erekat are expected to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

A "senior Western diplomat" told Haaretz that the most contentious clause in the UNSC resolution calls for sanctions against Israel, provides a timetable for negotiations, and mentions the 1967 borders but makes no mention of the potential for land swaps between Israel and Palestine. The source reportedly said in, regards to the resolution, "If the Palestinians act wisely and rationally they have a chance."

Meanwhile, Palestinian news network al-Quds reported that the delegation also intends to meet with officials from the incoming Trump administration.

The Palestinian Authority shelved the submission of a new anti-settlement resolution to the UN in April, out of fear that the resolution would thwart the progress of a French-lead initiative to hold a multilateral peace conference.

The French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters in Paris Wednesday that the conference should be held before Christmas in Paris, stressing that “It is necessary to again create the conditions for two States and we cannot forget this perspective,” according to a press release from the ministry.

He added that a goal was to arrange a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “on the margins” of the conference.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, a spokesman of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development condemned the so-called “Legalization bill” moving forward in Israel’s parliament, saying that, “Just like all settlement-related activity, this appropriation would be illegal according to international law.”

“The adoption of such a law would constitute a grave attack on the viability of the two-State solution -- the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

All past efforts towards peace negotiations have failed to end the decades-long Israeli military occupation or bring Palestinians closer to an independent contiguous state.

The most recent spate of negotiations led by the US collapsed in April 2014.

Israel claimed the process failed because the Palestinians refused to accept a US framework document outlining the way forward, while Palestinians pointed to Israel's ongoing settlement building and the government's refusal to release veteran prisoners.

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