Top Palestinian official says settlements and two-state solution ‘mutually exclusive’ 15Nov11 November 15, 2011

Haaretz  -  14 November 2011

There can be no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as long as Israel continues building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday.

He spoke as international envoys held another round of separate talks with Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem, in a bid to revive stalled peace negotiations.

“There is no doubt about the fact that Israeli settlements and the two-state solution are mutually exclusive,” Erekat said after meeting Tony Blair and other representatives of the Quartet of Middle East mediators – the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia – at the UN headquarters in East Jerusalem.

Palestinians would be ready to negotiate, Erekat said, but only once Israel freezes its construction in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and accepts the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War as a clear term of reference to the talks.

A separate parley between the quartet envoys and aids of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled for the afternoon.

So far, efforts to revive direct talks have failed, as the Palestinians say Israel must first freeze settlement construction, and Israel insists on talks without preconditions.

The quartet has been trying to revive the talks since September 23, when it issued a proposal that called for negotiations without preconditions, but with the end of 2012 as a clear deadline. A preliminary meeting was to have been held a month later, and in the first three months, the sides should have made substantial progress on the two issues of borders and security.

But instead of a preliminary meeting launching direct talks, Blair met the parties separately on October 26. They agreed to continue meeting separately and to “overcome the current obstacles” to resuming direct negotiations.

The Israeli government argues that it has already agreed to a temporary settlement freeze from November 2009 to September 2010 and will not accept another one.

The Palestinians would not abandon their demand for a freeze of all Israeli construction in the West Bank, “including even what they call Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem,” a senior Palestinian official said.

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