Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has denied meeting Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister while on a visit to Washington. He said that the issue of Palestine-Israel negotiations are still off the agenda.
Erekat, who met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his trip, confirmed that it was “fruitful and important for the peace process which is currently in a critical situation”. He said that there will be no resumption of negotiations until Israel freezes settlements, releases prisoners and respects previous peace agreements.
“How can we talk while there is rampant Israeli settlement activity and our prisoners are still in dark prison cells?” he asked. “Israel has to choose between negotiations and settlement.”
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton insisted that there is no other solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict except through negotiations. After her meeting with Mr Erekat, the Secretary of State said that she had invited him to Washington in order to discuss the peace process in the hope that both sides could exploit the positive atmosphere which resulted from the exchange of letters between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month.
When he was asked whether he had met Deputy PM Shaul Mofaz, whose visit to Washington coincided with his visit, Mr Erekat denied that such a meeting had taken place.
Last week, media reports said that Mofaz had asked to meet President Abbas. Mr Erekat confirmed that the request was considered but did not say whether it was agreed to or not.
The Chief Negotiator said that he discussed the current Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip with Mrs Clinton, and that, far from threatening the peace process, raising the status of Palestine in the UN “protects it, on the principle of the two-state solution and the 1967 borders”.
Erekat also said that he had discussed the dangers of closing the PLO office in Washington with US Senators and asked them to resume their financial support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
It has been confirmed that Saeb Erekat has been taking part in today’s (Thursday’s) Israeli presidential conference in occupied Jerusalem.