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Abbas slams EU's watered down Jerusalem draft

Israel bans EU MPs from entry in to the Gaza Strip

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed disappointment on Wednesday over the watered down European Union draft calling for Jerusalem to become the capital of two states and said the initial draft presented to the Palestinians was less "vague."

Abbas said the EU statement had watered down an earlier Swedish draft, which had defined a state of Palestine as comprising "the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza."

"Regarding the position of the EU, we all know the Swedish draft was a good draft because it put in clear cut terms the issue of East Jerusalem. Then came the final, vague form," Abbas said after talks in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"We can say it is an important decision but certainly does not fulfill or reach the level of the draft that was presented by Sweden that we agreed with and were satisfied with," he added.

The European Union on Tuesday called on Israel to end its occupation of east Jerusalem as part of a Middle East peace agreement and make the holy city the capital of two states, a position the current Israeli government rejects.

The status of Jerusalem -- a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians -- is a sensitive issue for Israel, which considers the city to be its indivisible capital. Palestinians want the eastern part of Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a Palestinian state but it is currently occupied by Israel.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a top aide to Abbas, also told Reuters in Ramallah by telephone that the EU statement would not help to change the Palestinian position on resuming peacemaking efforts.

The Palestinian leadership refuses to resume peace talks with Israel, which have been suspended over the past year, until Israel freezes all settlement construction. They have rejected Israel's partial 10-month moratorium.

"What helps in returning to negotiations is halting settlement expansion and recognizing that the borders of the Palestinian state are the 1967 borders in full, including Jerusalem," Abu Rdainah said.

Regarding the position of the EU, we all know the Swedish draft was a good draft because it put in clear cut terms the issue of East Jerusalem. Then came the final, vague form

Palestinian president Abbas

Shalit deal

Abbas also held talks with President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh and said there was still no deal between the Israelis and Gaza's rulers Hamas to release captured soldier Gilad Shalit.

Egypt has been trying to broker a deal in which Hamas would release Shalit in exchange for Israel freeing of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

"The two sides have stopped at the details concerning the numbers and nature of people to be released ... I can tell you that for now there is no deal," Abbas told reporters.

Talks on a swap hit an obstacle in late November, a source close to the discussions said, after Israel refused to free a number of prisoners at the top of Hamas's list whom Israel accuses of making bombs that killed dozens of Israelis.

Days before, Israel and Hamas had come close to a deal when officials said Israel had dropped objections to freeing 160 prisoners whose freedom was sought by Hamas.

The two sides have stopped at the details concerning the numbers and nature of people to be released ... I can tell you that for now there is no deal

Abbas

EU MP's blocked from Gaza

Meanwhile the European parliament demanded that Israel explain why it prevented a delegation of MEPs from travelling to the strip despite initially authorizing the visit.

"Israel had yesterday afternoon granted final permission for all members of our delegation to travel. However, some three hours later entry for all members of the delegation was rescinded 'on security grounds', without further explanation," it said in a statement.

"We insist on a full explanation of the security risks claimed by Israel," it said.

"It is extremely curious that the cancellation came within a few hours of the announcement of the EU Council statement re-affirming Europe's strong position in favor of an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and an end to settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem."

EU nations agreed Tuesday that Jerusalem should be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.

The eight-strong parliamentary delegation represents members from various political parties from Britain, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany and Greece.

Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP that Israel bars foreign dignitaries from the Gaza Strip.

"Any entry of foreign dignitaries into the Gaza Strip will be manipulated by this terror organisation (Hamas) in order to achieve respectability and continue its terror policy against Palestinians and Israelis alike."





(With Agencies)

It is extremely curious that the cancellation came within a few hours of the announcement of the EU Council statement re-affirming Europe's strong position in favor of an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and an end to settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

EU statement