The latest shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry has not produced any breakthrough in the push to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority has confirmed. Nabil Abu Rdainah said that the efforts will continue even though Kerry has now left the region. He stressed that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is holding firm to the demand for recognition of the pre-June 1967 borders and the release of long-term prisoners being held by Israel as the bases for talks to resume.
Veteran negotiator and PLO Executive Committee member Saeb Erekat attended the meetings between Abbas and Kerry. He told reporters that Israel is putting 930 new obstacles before the secretary of state's efforts. He was referring to Israel's decision to build 930 housing units in the illegal Har Homa settlement on Palestinian land at Jabal Abu Ghneim in Jerusalem. "This is at the same time as Israel is accusing us of setting preconditions for the resumption of talks," noted Erekat. "There are no preconditions; these are Israeli obligations which have to be implemented: an end to settlement construction; the two-state solution on the 1967 borders; and the release of prisoners detained since before 1994."
Erekat explained that the Israeli government is the one which sets the conditions, and its main condition now is the resumption of negotiations while settlement construction is continuing. "That's the real condition set by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."
The PLO negotiator pointed out that in the past week or so, in the run-up to Kerry's latest visit, Israeli ministers have said that the two-state solution is dead, more than 40 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, settlement expansion is ongoing and more land has been seized. "All of these are obstacles to any breakthrough about talks," he insisted. "The breakthrough will occur when Israel fulfils its obligations and shows that it is committed to the process."