Ma'an News Agency
February 2, 2011 - 1:00am

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat urged the Middle East Quartet on Tuesday to recognize a Palestinian state within 1967 borders when it meets later this week.

"We call on the international Quartet take an historic decision to recognize the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders at its next meeting on February 5 in Munich," Erakat told AFP.

"In order to bring security and stability in the Middle East, we must drain the swamp that is the Israeli occupation, which is the sole cause of all problems in the region," he said.

With unprecedented anti-government protests underway in Egypt, many are calling for democracy and human rights in the Middle East, but those same rights must be recognized for the Palestinians as well, Erakat added.

The Quartet -- Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations -- meets on Saturday to seek ways of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations which ran aground last year.

The talks fell apart after Israel refused to renew a temporary ban on settlement building, with the Palestinians rejecting further negotiations so long as Israeli settlers build on land wanted for a Palestinian state.

Eight South American countries have already declared their recognition of an independent Palestinian state, which the Palestinians want to establish in the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in east Jerusalem, all of which were seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

In Europe, meanwhile, six countries have upgraded the status of Palestinian diplomatic delegations to that of a mission -- one notch below embassy.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials said they were making preparations to hold long-postponed local elections "as soon as possible."

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Palestinian television that intensive discussions are underway to set a date for the elections that had initially been set for July 2010.

Fayyad added that the Palestinians must "think seriously about general elections" as a way of reuniting the West Bank and Gaza Strip, divided since Hamas ousted the forces of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas from Gaza.

Hamas has refused to recognize the Abbas's authority since his four-year term expired in January 2009, and rejected legislative elections that also were to have been held last year.

Hamas, which won by a landslide in the last parliamentary elections in 2006, has said there can be no fresh vote without reconciliation with Fatah.

The Islamist movement gained power in Gaza in June 2007 when it drove out forces loyal to Abbas in a week of bloody street battles, the culmination of years of struggle between the two main Palestinian movements.


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