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Middle East
Abbas seeks Arab League backing
Palestinian leader to present case for suspending talks with Israel until it extends settlement construction moratorium.
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2010 09:26 GMT

There are some 500,000 illegal Israeli settlement homes on occupied Palestinian territories [Al Jazeera]

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is set to present his case to the Arab League for suspending peace talks with Israel until it extends a moratorium on illegal settlement construction.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Abbas, said the Palestinian leader will tell Arab foreign ministers in the Libyan city of Sirte on Friday that "resuming negotiations requires a full freeze of settlement activities" in the occupied West Bank.

"Settlement is an impediment to negotiations and creates an atmosphere in which Israel alone is to be blamed for the obstruction of the political process," he told the Reuters news agency.

US-sponsored direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas, were relaunched a month ago in Washington, with the declared goal of reaching a two-state solution within a year.

But the talks were thrown into jeopardy in September after Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, refused to extend a 10-month freeze to the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied territory.

Abbas has said he wants to go on negotiating but cannot unless the new settlement construction is frozen for "three to four months more to give peace a chance".

But he said he would not make a final decision on the talks until after meeting Arab League ministers.

Major 'threat'

Abbas has strong backing from Palestinian leadership and public opinion to quit the peace talks over the settlement issue, though Washington has urged Arab ministers to back the talks rather than encourage Abbas to pull out.

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Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has also called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to sit down together again.

"I urge Israel to restore settlement restraint under its road map obligations and I urge Arab leaders meeting in Sirte this week to keep doors open and support [Palestinian] President Abbas."

Jewish settlement on occupied Palestinian land is one of the bitterest aspects of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Palestinians view the presence of 500,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as a major threat to the viability of their future state and see the freezing of settlement construction as a key test of Israel's seriousness about the talks.

Jewish settlements on occupied territory are illegal under international law but have been expanding in the West Bank for 30 years.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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