Ma'an News Agency
April 4, 2010 - 12:00am

The lack of clarity surrounding US Middle East envoy George Mitchell's next visit to the region could be due to tense relations between Israel and the US over Israel's refusal to halt settlement activities, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat told Ma'an radio on Sunday.

With regard to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's remarks, a day earlier in the West Bank city of Beit Sahour, that a Palestinian state would be established by 2011, Erekat highlighted that the state was declared in 1988 in Algiers and that it had now been recognized by more than 100 countries.

What Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas are doing, Erekat said, is building state institutions in order to achieve full sovereignty and independence in the near future. What the Palestinians need is for the US, the EU, and other countries that have not recognized the Palestinian state to declare recognition of that state on the borders of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian refugees in the diaspora, according to Erekat, should be treated in accordance with international law, namely UN Resolution 194, which affords refugees the right of return and compensation. Erekat explained that it should be the refugees themselves who determine whether or not to return to territories that became Israel in 1948, or to the current state of Palestine, or to remain where they live.

Meanwhile, Israel's envoy to the US denied reports of tensions between the two allies.

In a television interview with the US news network CNN, Ambassador Michael Oren said Sunday that relations were "great" between Israel and the Americans despite strains in recent weeks.


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