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Abbas tells US that negotiations can't carry on while settlements grow

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has apparently told John Kerry that his negotiators cannot carry on talking to the Israelis as long as settlement construction and expansion continues. Abbas told the US Secretary of State that the PA cannot accept more confiscation of Palestinian land and Israel's ongoing Judaisation of occupied Jerusalem.

"The Israeli government is obstructing the negotiation process by announcing the construction of 1,700 settlement housing units in the West Bank," said PLO official and PA Minister of Labour Ahmed Al-Majdalani. In any case, he added, the negotiations are not making any progress.

The minister noted that during his latest Europe visit President Abbas told EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton that the Palestinian leadership cannot justify the negotiations given Israel's construction of illegal settlements and the creation of "facts on the ground" before the talks are finalised.

According to Al-Majdalani, the Israeli government is trying to give the impression to the US administration, the EU and Israeli and Palestinian citizens that the Palestinian leadership is more "understanding" about settlement expansion and that the essence of the talks is not about ending the occupation, stopping settlement expansion and the Judaisation of Jerusalem.

Asked if there is a deal that involves the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel in return for the construction of new settler units in the occupied West Bank, the minister said that this is a rumour spread by the Israelis to discredit the Palestinian leadership. He pointed out that what has been achieved is a US-sponsored deal that entails the release of long-serving Palestinian prisoners. In return the Palestinians will refrain from seeking to join international organisations such as the international criminal court during the negotiations. "This deal has nothing to do with the settlements issue," he insisted.

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