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16 Dec 2009 10:10
Israel and the Palestinians could clinch a peace deal within six months if the Jewish state halted all settlement growth, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview published on Wednesday.
“I spoke with Defence Minister Ehud Barak twice over recent weeks,” Abbas told Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz daily.
“I suggested to him three weeks ago that Israel freeze all settlement construction for six months, including in east Jerusalem, without declaring it, just carrying it out in practice.
“During this time, we can return to the negotiating table and perhaps even achieve a final-status agreement. I have yet to receive an answer,” the moderate Western-backed president said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month announced a 10-month construction freeze in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank in the hope it would help kick-start peace talks suspended nearly a year ago.
But the Palestinians have rejected the move, saying it fell far short of their demand for a complete halt of settlement activity in the whole West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem.
Netanyahu’s moratorium does not include east Jerusalem or the 3 000 homes already under construction in the West Bank, or public buildings.
In the interview, Abbas once again accused Israel of violating the 2003 roadmap agreement adopted by the international community, which calls on the Jewish state to freeze settlements.
“The roadmap makes demands of all parties.
We were required to stop terror attacks, recognise Israel and even stop incitement.
“They said there is a problem with incitement in speeches in mosques during Friday prayers. Today there is no more incitement at any mosque ... The security situation in the West Bank is excellent.”
The most recent round of peace talks between the two sides was suspended nearly a year ago at the start of Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.—AFP
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