December 12, 2012 - 12:00am

RAMALLAH, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- A high-ranking Palestinian negotiator said in an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday that there will be no new peace initiative declared on the Middle East conflict before February 2013.

Mohamed Ishteya, also a member in the central committee of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah Party, told Xinhua at his office in the city of Ramallah that the Palestinian leadership welcomes any international initiative aiming at resuming the stalled peace talks with Israel.

"I rule out that there will be a declaration of a new peace initiative for ending the conflict in the Middle East before next February because of arranging the internal Israeli and American situations," said Ishteya, adding that "any initiative has to be based on ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state."

He asserted that the Palestinians would welcome and back any initiative that focuses on the legal rights and merits, adding that "ending the military occupation of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 in accordance to a specific time schedule and establishing a Palestinian state is our demands."

Diplomatic sources are talking about European efforts to hammer out a new initiative to resume the peace talks, which have been stalled between Israel and the Palestinians since October 2010. The sources said the aim of the talks is to end the growing tension between the two sides.

The tension between Israel and the Palestinians mounted after the Palestinians gained the status of a non-member observer state in the United Nations on Nov. 29, with 138 member states voting in favor, nine states including Israel and the United States voting against, and 41 countries sustaining.

"I don't believe that there will be soon new peace initiatives because the United States is still involved in rearranging the internal situation," said Ishteya, adding that "and also on Jan. 22 the Israeli parliamentary elections will be held and we will wait for its results."

Recent polls in Israel showed that the coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will win in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The Palestinian official said Netanyahu's possible victory would keep the Palestinians despaired, as his government insists on expanding settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"We have tried Netanyahu and he offered us nothing. The problem for us is that the political platform of Netanyahu's government is based on settlement expansion either in Jerusalem or in the West Bank," said Ishteya, "Having such a government is not helping for achieving a real peace."

The negotiator stressed that the substance of any move towards reviving the stalled peace process must be based on the major request of the Palestinians to halt settlement activities, ending the military occupation of the Palestinian territories and establishing an independent Palestinian state.

"The pending request now is that Israel must freeze its recent decision to build up 3,000 housing units in Israeli settlements built on areas A that are under the full Palestinian National Authority (PNA) control. This would certainly isolate the West Bank from Jerusalem and divide it," he said.

He revealed that the Palestinian leadership is exerting a great effort on all levels to block the implementation of the Israeli building project, which would make the possibility of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state impossible. The project would need eight months to be started.

Israel's decision to build up another 3,000 housing units was an immediate Israeli response to the Palestinian bid for recognition in the United Nations. In addition, the Israeli government has also decided not to transfer the annul tax revenue due to the PNA budget, which helps pay wages of Palestinian employees.

Meanwhile, Ishteya, who is also the chairman of the Palestinian Economical Council for Development and Construction, revealed that the Palestinians are preparing for holding a Palestinian conference aiming at finding solutions to end the current financial crisis the PNA is passing through.

"Through this conference, which will be held soon, we want to reach a national understanding on the mechanisms of empowering the Palestinian decision-making and rehabilitate the internal Palestinian situation in a way that goes in harmony with the recognition of a Palestinian state," said Ishteya.

He also said the Palestinian territories are paying 4 billion U. S. dollars for exported goods from Israel, adding that the Palestinians are planning to increase the commercial ties with the Arab world.

Ishteya also called on the Arab states that met earlier this week in Qatar to fulfill their pledges to the PNA by guaranteeing a monthly support of 100 million dollars, adding that "we are confident that the Arabs won't abandon the Palestinian people."

Meanwhile, the senior official ruled out that an internal Palestinian reconciliation would be achieved soon, despite the positive development in the ties between Fatah and its rival Hamas movement, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since it violently seized control of it in 2007.


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