PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo
PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo, seen here in January 2011, has welcomed "encouraging elements" in a peace talks proposal from the international Quartet, but reiterated their demand for a new settlement freeze. © Abbas Momani - AFP/File
PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo
Nasser Abu Bakr, AFP
Last updated: September 30, 2011

Palestinians welcome Quartet's peace proposal

The Palestinians on Thursday welcomed "encouraging elements" in a peace talks proposal from the international Quartet, but reiterated their demand for a new settlement freeze.

Speaking after a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo praised the proposal announced last Friday.

"The Quartet statement contains encouraging elements, and we call on Israel to announce its commitment to the principles and points of reference it identifies," he told reporters.

He said the Palestinians interpreted the Quartet's call, which referred to the peace plan known as the road map, as including a demand for Israel to halt construction of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

"We consider the Quartet's reference to the obligations of the Palestinian and Israeli sides under the road map and the call to avoid provocative acts as a clear call for a definitive halt to settlement activity in all its forms, which is an encouraging sign," he said.

Israel is unlikely to endorse that interpretation of the Quartet's proposal.

The group's statement did not explicitly demand a settlement freeze but did refer to the road map, which calls for such a freeze.

The Quartet, composed of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia, announced its bid to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians on Friday.

It came shortly after the Palestinians submitted their bid to join the United Nations as a member state.

The proposal calls for talks to begin within a month, for both sides to produce concrete ideas on security and borders within three months and for a final deal to be reached before the end of 2012.

It says talks should be based on previous Security Council resolutions, the road map, and the Arab peace initiative.

It also refers to a speech by US President Barack Obama in May, which called for negotiations to use the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War as a basis for deciding future borders.

Abed Rabbo praised the Quartet timetable and references to previous peace proposals and Obama's speech, but he stopped short of saying the Palestinians had explicitly accepted the call for new negotiations.

And he reiterated that the Palestinians will not hold peace talks unless Israel halts settlement construction and agrees to a clear framework for the negotiations.

"The Palestinian leadership cannot accept negotiations that lack even the minimum level of responsibility and seriousness," he said.

"It believes that the Israeli government should clearly commit to all the principles and references contained in the Quartet statement ... particularly those that call for a halt to settlement construction and that recognise the 1967 borders, so that negotiations can start as soon as possible."

So far, the Quartet's proposal has been cautiously received, with the Palestinians repeating their calls for a settlement freeze and clear parameters and Israel saying only that it is studying the issue.

In the meantime, the Palestinians are trying to boost support for their historic bid to win recognition as a state member of the United Nations.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki said eight members of the Security Council had pledged to approve the bid, one shy of the nine votes needed to advance it to the General Assembly.

The Palestinians are now planning a diplomatic offensive, reaching out to council members Bosnia, Portugal and Colombia, which are currently undecided on the vote or have suggested they will abstain, Malki said.

The United States, a permanent member of the council, has already said it will veto the bid.

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