by Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting of the Executive Committee of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Ramallah, Oct. 2, 2010. The Palestinian leadership on Saturday decided not to continue peace talks with Israel over a dispute on Jewish settlement policy in the West Bank, a spokesman said. (Xinhua/Fadi Arouri)
RAMALLAH, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and major Palestinian political faction Fatah Party, both led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, decided on Saturday to suspend the direct peace talks with Israel until the Israeli government freezes settlement construction in the Palestinian territories.
Nabil Abu Rdineh, spokesman of Abbas, told reporters that the decision was made during a joint high-ranking meeting, "following the rigid Israeli position to continue settlement construction, therefore, the Palestinian leadership decided not to go to the direct talks before the full freeze of settlement."
Abbas on Saturday chaired a joint meeting of the PLO executive committee and his Fatah party's central committee to decide on the fate of the talks with Israel. The meeting was boycotted by the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and lasted for about two hours at Abbas's headquarters.
"We agreed in the meeting to keep the contacts with the American side and we will soon present our position to the Arab League follow-up committee and the Arab Summit to be held in Libya this week (Oct. 8) to brief them on the latest situation," Abu Rdineh added.
The Palestinian leadership's decision was made one week after a 10-month Israeli government moratorium to freeze settlement expired. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend the moratorium. The Palestinians said settlement construction has resumed in the West Bank.
The U.S. administration of President Barrack Obama has been exerting efforts to convince both sides to go ahead with the direct talks restarted in Washington on Sept. 2. However, U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell had failed to achieve any progress during his 4-day tour in the region which ended Friday.
Abu Rdineh also expressed Palestinian concerns over the seriousness of the Israeli stance, adding that the U.S. vowed to keep its efforts "which had reached to a deadlock and no real breakthrough so far has been made."
Meanwhile, Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the PLO executive committee, told Xinhua that the Israeli government of Netanyahu " is fully responsible for the suspension of the peace talks because it insists to keep the Jewish settlements construction in the Palestinian territories."
"The Palestinian leadership overwhelmingly agreed that the talks amid a continuation of settlement means a destruction of the peace process and the only one who is responsible for this is Israel," said Abu Yousef.
He added that the official Palestinian stance will be fully conveyed on Oct. 8 to the Arab League follow-up committee, adding "however, the Palestinians will keep contacts and talks with the United States and the international community."
Mohamed Dahlan, member of Fatah central committee who attended the joint meeting, told reporters that the Palestinian leadership has approved a series of alternatives in case the talks completely collapsed and the Israeli government keeps its settlement's activities.
Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian negotiator with Israel and a member of the PLO executive committee, told reporters after the meeting in Ramallah that "the decision of the PLO is that there are no talks amid the continuation of settlement."
"We can never accept any kind of talks amid settlement," she said, "if Israel wants to make progress in the peace process, it should immediately freeze the settlements building and halt construction in the settlements."
Asked about the ties between the Palestinians and the U.S., she said that "the door has been kept open for George Mitchell and the United States to keep their efforts and contacts with the two sides to reach a form that leads to the freeze of settlement."
Special Report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts