Settlement issue looming over Israeli-Palestinian direct talks   2010-09-16 19:24:56 FeedbackPrintRSS

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (from L to R) hold talks in Jerusalem, Sept.15, 2010. (Xinhua/Yin Dongxun)

Backgrounder: Major Mideast peace process events in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh

by Osama Radi, Emad Drimly

GAZA, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- The issue of resuming the Israeli settlement construction in the Palestinian territories is looming over the U.S.-sponsored direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians launched in Washington early this month, officials said.

Ghassan al-Kharib, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) government's spokesman told "Voice of Palestine" Radio that the Palestinian people and their leadership's judgment is based on Israel's practice in reality, mainly in the issue of settlement construction in the Palestinian territories.

"In fact there is a wide gap between the words and the deeds of Israel. Israeli officials make statements to the media only for propaganda saying it wants the choice of peace, while on the ground it insists to continue settlement," said al-Khatib, adding "settlement and negotiations are contradicted."

He went on saying that the negotiations aim at ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories while settlement devotes and manifests this occupation, adding "we hope that the will of peace succeeds and overcomes the will of occupation and we hope that the world's pressure on Israel continues."

Meanwhile, well-informed Palestinian sources close to the negotiations revealed that Wednesday's meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu at the latter's house in Jerusalem "was so difficult."

The sources, which spoke in condition of anonymity, said the difficulties stemmed out from the stubbornness that Netanyahu had expressed in relation to the issue on extending the ten-month Israeli moratorium of freezing settlement construction. The moratorium ends on Sept. 26.

"Netanyahu hasn't changed his mind concerning the extension of the freeze and kept focusing on the Israeli strict principles of security," said the sources, adding that he informed Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Israel is not intending to extend the moratorium.

However, Palestinian officials quoted Abbas as saying that he rebuffed Netanyahu's position and threatened to withdraw from the negotiations in response to the Israeli right-wing leader. The officials added that the meeting was about to collapse until the Americans intervened to rescue it.

Editor: Liu

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