Friday

20th Sep 2019

Palestinian Authority ready for peace talks, Ashton says

The Palestinian Authority is ready for direct talks with Israel, with Ramallah likely to give a definitive go-ahead perhaps as early as Sunday (15 August), according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The EU high representative made the comments in a letter to European foreign ministers ahead of their informal meeting after the summer break.

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  • Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels (Photo: European Parliament - Audiovisual Unit)

"President Abbas is very close to accepting direct talks, but has requested a few more days for final consultations," she wrote to the bloc's 27 foreign policy chiefs, who are to meet from 10 to 11 September in Brussels, in a letter seen by EUobserver.

"In principle, President Abbas should be in a position to give a definitive answer by Sunday or early next week."

The two sides have engaged in indirect talks since the spring.

Once Mr Abbas has signed off on talks, direct negotiations would then begin "later in August," according to the Ashton text. He will only agree to talks so long as Israel for its part endorses a 19 March statement by the Quartet, the international body promoting the Middle East Peace Process, she writes.

The statement lays out that Israel stop settlement construction in the West Bank, leading to a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians within 24 months. Such a peace deal would see the creation of a Palestinian state based on the borders that existed prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.

It has long been understood that while the 1967 borders would form the basis of a deal, some adjustments and land swaps will be necessary.

The signal from Ms Ashton comes as Israel's partial 10-month "freeze" on settlement construction in the West Bank is coming to a close on 26 September.

Mr Abbas has throughout the process insisted on a clear framework of discussion topics based on Quartet demands, so that if terms offered by Israel do not match up with those required by the EU, US, UN and Russia, the Palestinian Authority will not appear to be rejecting a peace deal.

Any new talks are to exclude the militant group Hamas, which is listed as a terrorist entity by the EU and which has in the past fought bloody battles with the Abbas camp, but which controls the Gaza Strip.

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