Middle East News
LEAD: Israel foiled peace talks, Abbas tells German minister
Feb 1, 2012, 13:53 GMT
Ramallah/Jerusalem - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel Wednesday of foiling efforts to restart direct peace negotiations, as diplomats visited the region in an attempt to resume exploratory talks between the sides.
'Israeli intransigence and its refusal to recognize the borders of the Palestinian state and to halt settlements in the Palestinian territories blocked the way of all international efforts to revive the peace process and start direct negotiations,' Abbas told visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, according to official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Jordanian-brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinians, intended to set the stage for direct peace negotiations between the sides, ended last week. Abbas is scheduled to consult with the Arab League on Saturday, before making a final decision on whether to continue the dialogue.
But he told Westerwelle that he was willing to return to the table, once Israel committed on the issues of borders and halting construction in its West Bank settlements. Wafa did not report on Westerwelle's remarks.
Abbas is under international pressure not to end the talks, which kicked off in Amman on January 3 and lasted five sessions before being suspended.
The Palestinian leader was scheduled to meet later Wednesday with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who was also visiting the region to press for a continuation of the talks.
Ban met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Visiting Amman on Tuesday, Ban called on both sides to persist in their dialogue, urging Israel 'to make some good gestures so that the meetings can continue' and the Palestinians to change their mind and resume the Amman discussions.
On Wednesday, he told a joint news conference with Peres that he was 'convinced' Israel could 'improve its strategic relations with its neighbors, including by constructively engaging in the peace process with the Palestinians.'
Peres said that the peace process was 'encountering natural differences.'
'It's not the end of it. It may take time, we shall have to struggle,' he said.