Last updated: 31 October, 2012

Palestinians deny putting conditions on new talks

The Palestinians said on Wednesday a settlement freeze was an Israeli obligation not a condition set by them after French President Francois Hollande called for a resumption of peace talks without preconditions.

Direct negotiations have been on hold for more than two years, with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas refusing to negotiate as long as Israel continues to build and approve new Jewish settlements on occupied land.

“We are not placing any conditions on the resumption of negotiations,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.

Israeli “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Francois Hollande both know perfectly well that a settlement freeze is not a Palestinian condition but an Israeli commitment,” he added.

“Our demands are not conditions; we are merely asking that Israel honour its commitments, beginning with a settlement freeze and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

“We appeal to Netanyahu to say very clearly to us and to the world that he is committed to the principle of a two-state solution based on the borders of 1967.”

Hollande held talks with Netanyahu in Paris on Wednesday, his first with the Israeli premier since taking office five months ago.

At a joint news conference afterwards, the French president criticised Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories but echoed Israeli calls for a resumption of peace talks without preconditions.

“Only negotiations can lead to a definitive solution,” he said.

“France wants the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians without conditions and with the same goal — one we have been pursuing for years, even decades, two states, a state of Israel where security if guaranteed and a Palestinian state which must be allowed to live.”

Hollande said the two countries had “divergences on occupation, which we want to see halted.”

Netanyahu’s talks with the French president were held in a “very good atmosphere,” a top Israeli source told AFP.

Hollande had previously only spoken to Netanyahu by telephone but had met the Palestinian leader twice — both times in Paris.