Abbas ready for talks if Israel frees prisoners

10/06/2012 10:44



AMMAN — Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he is ready for a dialogue with Israel if it frees Palestinian prisoners taken before the 1993 Oslo peace accord.

Speaking aboard a plane after talks in Paris, Abbas laid out his requirements to resume the comprehensive peace talks which stalled in September 2010: an end to Jewish settlement building in the Palestinian territories, and the recognition of the 1967 borders as a starting point.

He said he had urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to free all 123 Palestinians detained by Israel since before the 1993 Oslo accord, adding that their release had been agreed "but Israel has not honoured its commitment."

"If it frees these prisoners, there could be a meeting with Mr Netanyahu for a session of dialogue but that doesn't mean negotiations," the Palestinian leader said.

Earlier in Paris, Abbas said the Palestinians, who saw their full United Nations membership blocked by a US veto threat, may accept non-member state status.

He told reporters during his Paris visit that if Israel does not resume peace negotiations, "we will of course go to the (UN) General Assembly to obtain non-member status, as was the case for Switzerland and the Vatican".

The Palestinians applied for full UN membership last September, but the application hit a deadlock at the Security Council, where the United States threatened a veto.

The United States and Israel argue that only direct Palestinian-Israeli talks can produce a definitive peace accord.

French President Francois Hollande, who met Abbas during his Paris visit, said Friday that "we must do everything to facilitate the recognition of a Palestinian state via a negotiated process".

The Palestinians' envoy to the United Nations said Friday that Israel's new surge in settlement building in the Palestinian territories is destroying hopes for any return to peace talks.

The city of Jerusalem is seeking to expand the settlement of Gilo beyond annexed east Jerusalem. Israel also announced plans to add hundreds of new settlement homes elsewhere in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, has stepped up calls for the UN Security Council to visit the Palestinian territories.

Non-Aligned Movement countries on the council said they would propose the visit, which Israel and the United Nations have opposed in the past.

Direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians on a peace deal remain in deep freeze after grinding to a halt in late 2010 over the issue of Jewish settlement construction.