Abbas Says Talks with Israel still on Table

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Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday talks with Israel are still on the table, despite moves against the Jewish state at the U.N. and numerous failed rounds of negotiations.

Abbas was addressing the Palestinian leadership at the opening of a two-day conference in the West Bank to discuss the future of the Palestinian Authority (PA), whose existence is under threat after Israel cut off a key source of funds.

"We ask all countries of the world to recognize the state of Palestine," he said.

"But we want to say to the Israeli side, these recognitions do not mean in any way that we do not want to negotiate, or that we're running away from negotiations."

There was no immediate Israeli reaction to Abbas's speech.

U.S.-backed talks between the Palestinians and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government collapsed in April after nine months of fruitless meetings amid bitter recriminations and mutual blame.

Relations have since further deteriorated, after a devastating war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza during the summer, and with Palestinian moves against the Israelis in the international arena.

The Palestinians submitted a U.N. Security Council resolution in December -- which was voted down -- calling for an end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank within two years, and in January joined the International Criminal Court, where they plan to press for war crimes against Israel.

Israel has in response frozen $127 million per month in tax revenues due the PA, depriving it of most of its funds and rendering it unable to pay tens of thousands of employees.

"This is the third month in a row that we're taking loans from the banks," Abbas said, adding that a "political solution" was the best way to end the deadlock.

Abbas said the Palestinians were ready to deal and talk with "whoever" wins an Israeli general election on March 17.

"We are not interfering, or saying who we'd like to see or who we'd not like to see" win the vote, he said.

"Whoever that man is, or whatever his politics... the (Israeli) people will elect who they want, and we will deal with him."

Netanyahu, whose right-wing coalition includes members who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, is likely to return for a fourth term in office, making a return to peace talks unlikely.

Referring to the Palestinians' own elections, Abbas urged rivals Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, to coordinate with the PA in making sure a long-overdue Palestinian vote goes ahead.

"As soon as Hamas sends me written official approval, I will immediately issue a decree calling for elections," he said.

Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization in April which was to pave the way for a general election by the end of 2014, but the Gaza war and a failure to implement the unity deal has caused delays.

The last Palestinian general election was in 2006, when Hamas won a parliamentary majority, but then ejected Abbas's Fatah party from Gaza during bitter fighting the following year.

Under last year's unity deal, an independent consensus government agreed on by Hamas and the PLO was to take over administrative and security control of Gaza, but with continuing disputes, including over the payment of Hamas security forces, the Islamist movement remains in de facto control.

The United States and Europe refuse to deal with Hamas, branding it a terrorist group, and seeing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians.

Abbas reiterated his commitment to non-violence.

"We won't use violence. Peaceful, popular resistance is the only way for us," he said.

Comments 1
Missing phillipo 04 March 2015, 15:41

"these recognitions do not mean in any way that we do not want to negotiate, or that we're running away from negotiations."
Running away - wasn't that exactly what you did last April?

"Abbas urged rivals Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip,"
Hasn't he claimed more than once that the PA government also rules Gaza?

"The last Palestinian general election was in 2006,"
Is there another country in the free (or even whole) world where the last General elections were held 9 years ago, I don't think so.