Elior Levy
June 9, 2011 - 12:00am

A settlement construction freeze is still a precondition for Palestinian talks with Israel, senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat told Ynet Wednesday.

Erekat denied an earlier Washington Post report whereby the Palestinian Authority is willing to renounce the building freeze demand.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat backs Mideast policy speech given by Barack Obama, which urges return to 1967 borders with land exchanges, but in a new twist says nothing of halting West Bank settlement activity

"Abbas will agree to negotiate with Israel only if Netanyahu is willing to embark on talks on the basis of the 1967 border, and declares it publicly, and in addition to agreeing to freeze construction in the settlements," the top Palestinian official said.

Erekat has been in Washington this past week, where he met Tuesday with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In the meeting, Erekat noted that the Palestinians are willing to postpone their UN application for statehood should Netanyahu accept the Obama principle whereby a Palestinian state will be established base on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps.

Palestinian momentum
Erekat also dismissed reports about a secret channel of talks between Israel and the Palestinians involving himself and Netanyahu advisor Yitzhak Molcho, who is also in Washington.

Meanwhile, an official in the PA negotiations team told Ynet Wednesday that the Palestinians are determined to approach the UN for statehood for two reasons: They do not believe that Netanyahu is interested in reaching a diplomatic breakthrough, and they are aware of the broad media resonance of their decision to turn to the UN.

"There's a great momentum to this issue," the source said. "Of course, should Netanyahu decide to comply with the demand to discuss the 1967 borders and agree to freeze settlement construction, we will have no reason to turn to the UN, but we all know the likelihood of this is nil."


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