The Bible Teaching Ministry of David Hocking
“The Word of our God shall stand forever” Isaiah 40:8


By Khaled Abu Toameh

Nabil Shaath tells reporters initiative contains “encouraging” elements, but stops short of endorsing it; says PA hasn’t received official word about US Congress blocking $200 million in aid in response to statehood bid.

The Palestinian Authority has not rejected the latest Quartet proposal for resuming peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians but wants “clarifications” about some of the elements mentioned in the plan.

PA officials said over the weekend that while the proposal contained “encouraging elements,” they want the Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – to provide further clarifications regarding the “terms of reference” for the peace process and the issue of construction in the settlements.

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The Quartet proposal was announced last week after PA President Mahmoud Abbas submitted to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, an official request for full membership in the UN.

The proposal calls for negotiations to begin within a month, for both parties to come up with concrete ideas on borders and security within 90 days and for a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians before the end of 2012.

The proposal also says that negotiations should be based on Security Council resolutions, the Road Map and the Arab peace plan of 2002, as well as a speech by US President Barack Obama before the UN General Assembly last year.

PA negotiator Nabil Shaath told reporters in Ramallah that the Palestinians want the Quartet to clarify its position with regards to the settlements and the “international terms of reference” for the peace process.

Last week PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki dismissed the Quartet plan as “incomplete.”

However, the PA leadership announced following a meeting in Ramallah last Friday that the initiative included some “encouraging” points.

On Saturday, Shaath also said that the proposal contains encouraging elements, but stopped short of endorsing it.

He described the proposal as “good compared with previous plans because it includes a demand for a halt of settlement construction and sets the international terms of reference as a basis for negotiations between the two sides.”

He said that the PA leadership has studied the initiative “thoroughly,” noticing that it contains a number of “encouraging elements – especially a timetable for presenting a detailed and tangible plan for the issues of borders and security within three months based on all international terms of reference such as the UN Security Council resolutions, the Road Map, Obama’s May 19, 2011 speech in which he considered the 1967 “borders” as the basis for negotiations and a solution and the Quartet’s call on both parties to avoid provocative activities like construction in the settlements.

Shaath called on the Quartet to clarify the nature of the terms of reference mentioned in its initiative.

The PA has a positive view of the initiative but still hasn’t decided whether to accept it or not, he explained.

Shaath pointed out that the clarifications were needed “particularly in wake of the fact that while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has accepted the Quartet initiative, his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is opposed to it.”

The PA won’t return to the negotiating table with Israel without “clear terms of reference” for the peace process and the international community must exert pressure on Israel to accept the plan, Shaath added.

He stressed that the PA leadership was determined to pursue its efforts to garner support for the statehood bid at the UN, expressing hope that the Palestinians would be able to win the vote of nine members of the Security Council for the statehood application.

The PA said last week that it has so far secured the backing of at least eight members.

In response to reports that Congress has decided to block $200 million in financial aid to the Palestinians, Shaath said it still hasn’t received official word about the new sanction. He pointed out, however, that the Palestinians were apparently being punished even before becoming members of the UN.

Shaath said that regardless of the vote at the UN Security Council, the PA would step up “popular and peaceful resistance against the settlements and occupation.”

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