Ma'an News Agency (Interview)
April 16, 2012 - 12:00am

ON BOARD PRESIDENTIAL JET (Ma'an) -- Israel seeks to maintain the status quo by talking about peace without making any efforts to achieve it, President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday.

Abbas, on a regional tour in Asia, told Ma'an that the Israeli government's stated support of a two-state solution was a "slogan for public opinion."

"Israel talks about the two-state solution without taking a single step towards that solution ... (they are) comfortable with the status quo and don't seek to reach a solution," he said.

Peace talks have been on ice since September 2010 when Israeli refused to renew a freeze on Israeli settlement building on Palestinian lands. After exploratory talks in January ended without agreement, both sides are preparing to exchange letters outlining their positions.

"Halting settlement construction isn't a precondition, but rather a commitment present in all agreements" to date, Abbas said on Sunday. The leadership insist they cannot return to negotiations while Israel builds on land needed for a viable Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, the May 2011 deal to end the bitter rivalry between Abbas' Fatah party and Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip, has also frozen.

The Fatah-dominated government in the West Bank is expected to reshuffle on Abbas's return from Asia, and the president confirmed the new cabinet would be in place "in weeks."

Party leaders agreed in February to a unity cabinet to bridge the divided West Bank and Gaza governments, but Hamas leaders in Gaza were outraged that their chief Khalid Mashaal agreed Abbas would lead the new cabinet.

Senior Hamas leaders said on Sunday that the appointment of new ministers to the West Bank government would impede reconciliation.

"There isn't any discrepancy between the reconciliation government and reshuffling Fayyad’s cabinet," Abbas insisted on Sunday.


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