Abbas: Israel to blame if peace talks collapse over borders
Published Wednesday 23/10/2013 (updated) 23/10/2013 22:20
President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting at the
parliament in Vilnius on October 22, 2013.(AFP/Petras Malukas)
VILIUS (AFP) -- President Mahmoud Abbas warned Tuesday Israel would be to blame if ongoing peace talks collapsed over its military control of a border with Jordan.
"We will not accept it, and if they (the talks) collapse, they (Israelis) will be the reason for the collapse, not us," Abbas told the Baltic News Service during a visit to Lithuania, current holder of the European Union's rotating presidency.
Israeli daily Maariv reported last week that negotiations almost collapsed in September due to conflicting positions on future borders, particularly where the eastern West Bank adjoins Jordan.
Israel has long stated that it seeks to retain a long-term military presence along the Jordan Valley, which makes up roughly a third of the occupied West Bank.
At present, around 94 percent of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area is off limits to Palestinian use and development.
But Palestinians flatly object to any Israeli military on land that could become the eastern front of a future Palestinian state.
"They don't have the right to stay in our territories after we signed a peace treaty," Abbas said Tuesday, while stressing that he accepts a future demilitarized Palestinian state.
"We want, according to the Oslo Agreement, a strong police force. This is exactly what we want, how we understand, how they understand, how the Americans understand it," the PA leader said.
Abbas also hailed the European Union's demand on Monday that Israel stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Construction starts in Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land rose by 70 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2013, anti-settlement group Peace Now said last week.
Speaking for the 28-member EU, Lithuania said Monday that settlements were impeding the peace process.
"They (EU countries) will implement their proposal (addressing the settlements) at the beginning of 2014, which is very, very important for the peace process," Abbas added, terming this a "strong signal to Israel".
US-sponsored direct peace talks resumed in late July after a hiatus of nearly three years, although both sides have kept a tight lid on the substance under discussion at the request of Washington.
Israel's government has announced the construction of thousands of housing units in illegal settlements since peace talks began.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
Ma'an staff in Bethlehem contributed to this report