Last updated: 23 January, 2012

Palestinians threaten to stop talks with Israel

Palestinian negotiators will not take part in any more talks with Israel after this week unless it stops settlement building, a Palestinian official said Monday.

“I confirm that exploratory meetings will come to an end on the date agreed upon (January 26) if Israel does not stop its settlement building in the whole of the Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem,” the official told AFP condition of anonymity.

“No date has been set until now for a new meeting” after the fourth such talks was held in Amman on January 21, added the official who is close to the exploratory negotiations.

EU diplomacy chief Catherine Ashton is expected in the Middle East on Tuesday to try to convince the two parties to resume direct peace talks, which stalled in 2010.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, for his part, told Moscow that his “visits in Great Britain, Germany and Russia aimed to discuss what could be done if exploratory meetings in Amman failed,” WAFA news agency reported.

The Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — urged both parties on October 26 to come forward with comprehensive proposals on borders and security within three months.

Palestinian officials have repeatedly warned they will not continue talks after January 26 unless Israel freezes settlement construction and agrees to base any future talks on the lines which existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disputed this deadline, saying that the clock started ticking on the date of the first bilateral talks held in Amman, or January 3.

“We are only counting talks from January 3 which means we have until April 3,” he said, referring to the date of the first face-to-face encounter between the two sides.

The two sides began exploratory talks this month under the auspices of Jordan to see if they can resume negotiations.

Amman hosted talks on January 3, 9, 15 and 21, the first since September 2010, which failed to yield any tangible results.