June 14, 2012 - 12:00am

Senior Palestinian officials on Thursday asserted that there are advanced efforts together with Arab intervention and U.S. pressure to hold a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee, told Voice of Palestine Radio that there are "ideas" discussed to arrange for the meeting, which will be the first in one year and a half to reduce tension between the two sides.

However, Abed Rabbo stressed that "before holding such a meeting, there must be preceding conditions and other practical steps on the ground that have to be done. So far, the Israeli side hasn't offered anything on either political or practical level in order to find a justification for this meeting."

In this respect, an official Palestinian source speaking to Xinhua on condition of anonymity said that "there are intensive activities led by Egypt and Jordan in addition to pressure exerted by the United States to prepare for the meeting "as soon as possible."

"Egyptian Intelligence chief Murad Muafi and Jordanian FM Nasser Judeh lead that coordination with the U.S.. They also intensify contacts with the Israeli government to make goodwill gestures to President Abbas, mainly releasing prisoners and arming the Palestinian Authority," said the source.

The source also said the Egyptian and Jordanian officials are in contact with the international Quartet, which compresses the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, adding that "these contacts aim at urging Israel for relaxing restrictions on the Palestinians."

Abbas has stated during a visit to France that he is willing to meet with Netanyahu "in case Israel releases Palestinian prisoners from its jails and allows arms to the security forces of the Palestinian authority." Abbas said it will be only a meeting and not resumption of the peace talks.

The Palestinians insist that resuming any peace talks with Israel must be based on the complete cessation of settlement activities, release of the Palestinian prisoners and recognition of the principle of two-state solution according to 1967 borders.

The Palestinian source also stated that Israel had informed Muafi that it opposes the Palestinian demand to halt settlement building in the Palestinian territories as a condition to resume the peace talks. However, Israel hinted that it may stop it without an official announcement during the meeting.

The source said the Israeli position "outraged Abbas and his top aides and made them hesitant to respond to the request of holding the meeting mainly after the Israeli government last week approved plans to build some 3,000 new settlement units."

Palestinian officials said the ongoing settlement activities on the Palestinian territories "is making the resumption of any peace talks useless and may undermine the principle of two-state solution." Israel has meanwhile threatened to carry out a unilateral pullout from the West Bank.

Abbas and Netanyahu have not met since the direct peace talks between the two sides was suspended in October 2010. The Palestinians said any Israeli unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank without a full coordination with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) would bury the principle of two-state solution.

The Palestinian source also linked between the preparations for the meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu and the U.S. threats to the Palestinians not to go for the UN recognition. It said the media war on Abbas aims at "obliging him to respond to the American pressure and hold the meeting."

Meanwhile, the Palestinians said last week they received an official U.S. denial to statements made by U.S. President Barack Obama that Abbas does not act for the interests of peace. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Xinhua earlier that there are U.S. political and financial threats to the PNA.

Meanwhile, the Ramallah-based al-Hayat al-Jadeeda Daily on Thursday quoted a senior European diplomat without mentioning his name as saying that the European support for the Palestinians to go for the UN recognition has declined, where he advised the Palestinians not to count too much on Europe.

The European diplomat said that "the only solution to the crisis" is to start direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, adding that "there is a European division concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." The Palestinians were hoping that most European countries support their bid to the UN.


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