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Haaretz: Fatah to Abbas: no talks without settlement freeze

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    Fatah to Abbas: no talks without settlement freeze By The Associated Press Last update - 20:05 30/09/2009 www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1117897.html The
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2009
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      Fatah to Abbas: no talks without settlement freeze
      By The Associated Press Last update - 20:05 30/09/2009
      www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1117897.html

      The Palestinian party Fatah has declared to Palestinian President Mahmoud
      Abbas, who heads the movement, that he must not resume peace talks unless
      Israel freezes its settlement construction, a senior Fatah member said
      Wednesday.

      Fatah's position could help Abbas stand up to U.S. pressure to return to the
      negotiating table despite Israel's failure to freeze construction in the
      West Bank and East Jerusalem.

      Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama told Abbas and Prime Minister
      Benjamin Netanyahu that negotiations must resume as quickly as possible,
      without preconditions. Obama admonished both leaders to stop wasting time.

      Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are holding separate follow-up meetings
      in Washington this week with Obama's Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, who
      hopes to bring the sides back to the negotiating table. The Israeli
      delegation met with Mitchell on Wednesday.

      Abbas has repeatedly said he would not return to talks without a freeze in
      Israeli settlements, which is mandated by a U.S.-backed peace plan. Israel
      refuses to comply, offering at best to slow construction for a limited
      period.

      The Obama administration was initially adamant about a halt to construction,
      but appears to have softened its stance after failing to make headway with
      the Israeli government on the issue.

      Fatah's Central Committee, the movement's key decision-making body, met late
      Tuesday with Abbas to discuss his options following last week's trilateral
      meeting with Obama and Netanyahu.

      Mohammed Dahlan, a committee member, said the panel told Abbas he must not
      budge.

      "Settlements and negotiations are two parallel lines that will never meet,"
      Dahlan told The Associated Press.

      The settlements are being built in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas
      sought by the Palestinians for a future state. Nearly half a million
      Israelis have moved to these areas over the past four decades.

      Palestinians argue that the continued construction is a major show of bad
      faith by Israel since the settlements gobble up more and more land. The
      settler population has increased by tens of thousands since the start of
      peace talks in 1993. Netanyahu says some construction must be allowed to
      accommodate what he calls natural growth in the settler population.

      Dahlan said the 23-member committee was also unanimous in its demand that
      the agenda of the negotiations be defined ahead of time.

      Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, held a series of talks with Abbas last
      year and agreed to tackle all so-called core issues, including a possible
      partition of Jerusalem. Netanyahu says Jerusalem is off-limits and says he
      is not bound by any promises made by Olmert.

      Dahlan said he believes the Obama administration is putting pressure on the
      Palestinians since they are the weakest party in the process.

      There is systematic backtracking by President Obama, Dahlan said. There is a
      changing of the foundations and reference points of the negotiations, and
      therefore I don't expect a quick return to negotiations.
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