Middle East
PA negotiators reject leaked report
Top Palestinian Authority officials dismiss leaked documents showing huge concessions on Jerusalem to Israel as "lies".
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2011 11:36 GMT
Mahmoud Abbas says he keeps the Arab League updated on all details of the negotiations with Israel [EPA]

Palestinian Authority officials have come down hard on secret documents obtained by Al Jazeera showing that top negotiators offered major concessions to Israel in the division of holy sites and Jerusalem, the would-be capital city of a future Palestinian state.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying that the leaked documents deliberately confuse Israeli and Palestinian positions.

"What is intended is a mix-up. I have seen them yesterday present things as Palestinian but they were Israeli... This is therefore intentional," he said.

Equally critical of the documents is the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who dismissed the accounts of negotiations with Israel released by Al Jazeera as "a bunch of lies".

The Palestine Papers revealed unprecedented private concessions from Erekat and other Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiators on the issue of the division of Jerusalem and the Haram al Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Reporting from Ramallah on Monday, Al Jazeera's James Bays said Palestinians were divided in their reaction to the Palestine Papers, with some supporters of the PA quite angry at Al Jazeera.

"There was a small group of protesters who gathered near Al Jazeera's office in the main square in Ramallah, no more than 50 people ... Suddenly they came towards Al Jazeera's office and made their way into the building where the Al Jazeera bureau is located. They got as far as the bureau itself, and tried to bash down the door," Bays reported.

The police were called to the scene, and the incident did not escalate further, Bays said, adding that the incident "shows how passionate some people are about this issue and how heated the debate in this city has become since the release of the Palestine Papers.

Nothing to hide

In an appearance on Al Jazeera shortly after the documents were released on Sunday, Erakat said the Palestinian leadership had "nothing to hide" and dismissed most of the report as lies.

He said that the information shown contained mistakes and inaccuracies and that his words were taken out of context and he was misquoted.

"I have always said that east Jerusalem is part of Palestine.

"No body has given up anything, I have shown [that] Jerusalem Map on Al Jazeera a year ago. The land exchange principle was discussed before," Erekat said.

He said that all documents were shared in advance with the Arab league and several Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Qatar.

"We have not gone back on our position. If we had given ground on the refugees and made such concessions, why hasn't Israel agreed to sign a peace accord?" he asked.

The chief Palestinian negotiator in the 2008 talks, Ahmed Qurei, told The Associated Press that "many parts of the documents were fabricated, as part of the incitement against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership".

'Media bias'

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Executive Committee, questioned Al Jazeera's professionalism during a press conference in Ramallah on Monday.

"We want to discuss with al Jazeera the transparency behind their allegations. We cannot say if the documents are correct or not. We will study them and see if they are correct," Rabbo said.

Rabbo termed the release of The Palestine papers a biased media campaign that distorts the truth and also accused Al Jazeera of "having political motives".

"Al Jazeera tries to copy WikiLeaks," Rabbo added.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official in Gaza told Al Jazeera that the Palestinian authority officials should be ashamed of themselves.

The Palestinian Authority is controlled by the secular Fatah movement, the sworn rival of Hamas.

The US State Department said it would continue pressing for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite the release of the documents.

"The US government is reviewing the alleged Palestinian documents released by Al Jazeera. We cannot vouch for their veracity," Philip Crowley, a spokesman, wrote on Twitter.

"The US remains focused on a two-state solution and will continue to work with the parties to narrow differences on core issues," he added.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks last broke down in September after Israel refused to extend a limited moratorium on illegal settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

The Al Jazeera program on Sunday, concentrating on Jerusalem, was the first of four this week. Others are set to cover refugees and other issues.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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