Abbas says no state without Jericho, Jordan Valley 17Aug13 August 17, 2013

Ma’an News Agency     -     16 August 2013

212160_345x230JERICHO (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated on Friday his position that there cannot be a Palestinian state without including Jericho and the Jordan Valley.

“We are committed to that. We have said that more than once,” Abbas said while opening a mosque in Jericho.

His religious affairs minister, Mahmoud Habbash, said that “we were blessed by god with the release of 26 veteran prisoners days ago. This is the first stepped to be followed by many others.”

He added: “There will be no peace with settlements, and without releasing all prisoners from the jails of the occupation. There will be no state without Jerusalem as its capital.”

After months of intensive US diplomatic efforts to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table after a nearly three-year break, peace talks resumed Monday in Jerusalem.

But they were overshadowed by a new row over Israeli settlement plans for the occupied territories.

In the run-up to the talks, Israel announced plans to build more than 2,000 new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, infuriating Palestinian officials.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on Israelis and Palestinians on Friday to overcome “deep skepticism” that he said risked thwarting efforts to reach a peace agreement.

“We must overcome the deep skepticism that comes from 20 years of stalemate,” Ban said at a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

“I urge all parties to avoid actions that risk undermining the negotiations,” a statement quoted him as saying.

“Both sides need to sustain an environment conducive for the peace process to move forward,” he said speaking two days after US-brokered peace talks resumed in Jerusalem.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played down the settlements issue at a meeting with Ban later on Friday.

“The root cause (of the conflict) was and remains the persistent refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any boundary,” Netanyahu said.

“It doesn’t have to do with the settlements — that’s an issue that has to be resolved, but this is not the reason that we have a continual conflict.

“If we build a few hundred apartments … in urban blocks that everybody knows… will be part of the final peace map in Israel, I think these are not the real issues that we need to discuss,” he continued.

“The real issue is how to get a demilitarized Palestinian state to finally recognize and accept the one and only Jewish state.”

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