Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, hinted on Monday that he might accept holding indirect peace talks with Israel, mediated by US Envoy, George Mitchell. He added that direct talks cannot resume before Israel freezes settlement activities for three months. His statements regarding the three months freeze are considered a backtrack on a previous demand that Israel should fully halt its settlement activities before peace talks are resumed.
He made his statement during an interview with British newspaper, The Guardian .
He said that he was close to signing an agreement with former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and added that Olmert presented “better offers than those offered to late president, Yasser Arafat”.
The Palestinian President added that the offers of Olmert included borders, Jerusalem, and a limited return of the refugees.
“But the government of Benjamin Netanyahu did not recognize the understandings reached with Olmert as basis for renewed peace talks”, Abbas stated.
In an interview with Israeli paper, Haaretz, conducted before the end of last year, Abbas said that the talks with Olmert were never completed, with the Arabs48 news website reporting that they were mainly focused on borders.
He also said that no understandings were made on the refugees, Jerusalem or water.
Abbas confirmed during his Guardian interview that he will not accept any return to what he described as “violent resistance”, and proposed direct talks with Israel after a three-month settlement freeze.
Following a meeting with British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, Abbas said that he does not know why the American government retracted its demand for a full settlement freeze, and added that he intends to consult with Arab leaders before responding to a proposal by US Middle East Envoy, George Mitchell, regarding holding indirect talks with Israel.
He further stated that should the Israeli response be positive, and “should they accept to the two-state solution based on full withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, and ending the occupation within a set timeframe, then a progress could be made”.
Abbas added that Israel should implement what it agreed to under the Road Map peace plan.
“If they are not willing to freeze settlement activities, then they are not interested in achieving a peaceful solution”, the Palestinian president concluded.