News24

Israel: Our gestures exhausted

2010-01-17 18:12

Ramallah - Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas urged Washington on Sunday to declare an "endgame" to resolve the decades-old Middle East conflict if Israel does not agree to halt settlement growth.

Abbas, in a statement carried by the official Wafa wire service, said Arab states and the Palestinians would present a unified position to the United States offering two options.

"Either Israel adheres to a complete halt to settlements and the guidelines [of negotiations] or America must come and say this is the endgame with respect to determining borders and the refugee issue and other final-status issues."

Abbas has resisted months of US pressure to relaunch peace talks suspended during last year's Gaza war, saying Israel must first freeze all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

In November, Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enacted a 10-month moratorium on new building starts in the West Bank but excluded east Jerusalem, public buildings and projects already under way.

The United States hailed the move as "unprecedented" but the Palestinians have rejected it as insufficient.

Israel's hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, said on Sunday that his country would make no more gestures towards the Palestinians.

Exhausted gestures

"As far as we are concerned, we have exhausted our arsenal of gestures. There will be no more gestures. Right now, it is time for gestures from the Palestinians," he told a press conference.

Last week, Abbas appeared to give some ground by demanding a halt to settlement growth for a "fixed period," but in Sunday's statement he remained adamant about a complete halt.

"We cannot return to the negotiations if Israel stays with this position," Abbas said, referring to the limited moratorium.

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell is expected to return to the region this week to try again to convince both sides to restart negotiations.

Israel's Maariv newspaper reported earlier this month that Washington was pushing a plan to restart peace talks that foresees reaching a final deal in two years and agreeing on permanent borders in nine months.

AFP