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Israeli demands in East Jerusalem have turned conflict into religious struggle, says Abbas

February 11, 2014 at 11:47 am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that Israel’s demands in East Jerusalem have turned the conflict into a “religious struggle” in a region already overburdened with such sensitivities. Speaking in Mönchengladbach, Germany, the president stressed the PA’s rejection of attempts to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a religious issue. “Indeed, we reject extremism and terrorism in all its forms,” he said.

In a report in the Palestinian News and Information Agency, WAFA, Abbas was quoted as saying that the Palestinian Authority agreed that Jerusalem would be a capital of two states, with East Jerusalem as the capital for a Palestinian state. He added that the Palestinians believe that Jerusalem must be open for worship for the followers of the three religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The basis for peace between Israel and Arab countries, insisted Abbas, must be UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. “We do not start in a vacuum or from point zero; nor are we lost in a labyrinth without a map; nor do we lack a compass so as to lose sight of the finish line and of the destination,” he pointed out. “We look forward to the realisation of a just peace, the fruits of which can be enjoyed by the Palestinian and Israeli people, as well as by all the people of our region.”

Negotiations, said Abbas, are intended to secure a lasting peace accord that leads immediately to the establishment of an independent and fully sovereign State of Palestine. “With East Jerusalem as its capital, on all of the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967, the country will live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel.” A just peace also requires the resolution of the plight of Palestinian refugees according to UN resolution 194, as called for by the Arab Peace Initiative, he added.

“The objective is to achieve a permanent and comprehensive agreement and a peace treaty between the States of Palestine and Israel that resolves all outstanding issues and answers all questions, which allows us to declare officially an end of conflict and claims.”

Abbas noted that the coming phase is about hope and economic resurrection in Palestine, with US Secretary of State John Kerry presenting an initiative to provide a package of economic projects creating opportunities for the private and public sectors to invest in Palestine. He called on businessmen and entrepreneurs to visit Palestine to see the situation and explore investment possibilities.

Should the negotiations fail, the president warned, there will be “undesirable consequences” for the region and the world. He called on the international community to intensify its efforts and seize the opportunity to make the current negotiations succeed so as to bring prosperity to Palestinians and Israelis alike.