Fares Akram, Chen Xu
April 13, 2011 - 12:00am

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Maliki on Wednesday said Israel's positions make the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians more difficult.

In an interview with Xinhua, Al-Maliki said the Palestinians will seek recognition of their state from the United Nations as a response to the failure of the latest round of U.S.-brokered peace negotiations.

"It is unexpected that there would be any serious negotiations with the Israeli side," Al-Maliki said at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, accusing the Israeli government of favoring Jewish settlement construction rather than peace.

The Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu "is based on a program that completely rejects the establishment of an independent Palestinian state," he added.

The latest round of U.S.-brokered peace talks halted in September 2010, due to a dispute over Jewish settlement building. The Palestinians say they cannot negotiate with Israel while the construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967, goes on.

Criticizing the U.S. "inability to press Israel," Al-Maliki stressed that the Palestinians will turn to the UN General Assembly in September trying to get an international recognition of their state with East Jerusalem as its capital. He noted that the Palestinian National Authority had launched a diplomatic campaign to secure as much support as possible when they ask the UN for recognition.

Given the progress the Palestinians have achieved in upgrading national institutions for a statehood, Al-Maliki said he was confident that the European Union would support the Palestinians in the UN. "The EU is solidly convinced with the Palestinian successes and the elements of existence and continuity of the state after it is declared."

The World Bank said last week in a report that the PNA was ready to run a state, praising the progress of a plan by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and warning that the Israeli restrictions could obstruct economic growth.

Fayyad's plan is expected to complete in September, the same month in which the United States hoped the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would end. U.S. President Barack Obama had earlier promised to support a Palestinian request for the UN's full membership also in that month.

Israel and the U.S. say the Palestinian quest for a UN recognition is a unilateral measure, adding that the Palestinian state should result only from negotiations. The Palestinian minister rejected the Israeli opposition.

If Israel focuses on the final status issues, which include Jerusalem, borders, security, water and refugees, negotiations can start and complete before September, Al-Maliki explained.

Al-Maliki criticized the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators for postponing its meeting, which was scheduled for April 15 in Berlin. He said the U.S. pushed for postponing the meeting to hear new ideas from Netanyahu on the peace process.

"We don not know when the next Quartet is going to meet again," he said, describing the delay as "unhealthy decision." An earlier meeting that was planned in March has also been delayed.

Al-Maliki recalled that Washington vetoed an Arab draft resolution in the Security Council calling for a stop of settlement construction, questioning the U.S. intention in settling down peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

In addition to the U.S., the Quartet comprises the EU, UN and Russia.

The PNA holds sway in the West Bank, while the Gaza Strip has been ruled by the Islamic Hamas movement since 2007, when Hamas routed forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Al-Maliki accused Hamas of firing rockets at Israel as part of its policy to deepen its control in Gaza, blaming the Islamic movement partly for ensuing Israeli retaliatory strikes in which civilian Palestinian are killed.

Eighteen Palestinians, including eight civilians, were killed in a wave of violence between Hamas and Israel last week. Al- Maliki said Hamas stepped up rocket attacks at Israel to put obstacles on Abbas' plans to visit Gaza and end political division between Gaza and the West Bank.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017