Last Updated: Sun Dec 19, 2010 21:58 pm (KSA) 18:58 pm (GMT)

Israel PM chose settlements over peace: Abbas

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestiniansquickly stalled, when a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze expired on Sept. 26
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestiniansquickly stalled, when a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze expired on Sept. 26

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu chose settlement building over peace, the Palestinian president told a visiting group of Israeli lawmakers and activists on Sunday.

Addressing around 100 Israelis at the presidential compound known as the Muqata, Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians remained committed to peace and negotiations, but questioned Netanyahu's priorities.

"He chose settlements over peace," Abbas told the delegation, which included peace activists and left-leaning members of the Israeli Knesset.

"I don't understand choosing settlements as more important than peace for us and for the coming generations," he said.

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first for nearly two years, began in Washington on September 2. But they quickly stalled, when a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze expired on September 26.

The Palestinians refused to resume negotiations without a new moratorium, but Washington admitted last week that it had failed to convince Israel to renew the building ban, despite offering a generous package of incentives.

The United States has proposed resuming negotiations in an indirect manner, with a U.S. envoy shuttling between the two sides.

But the Palestinians, backed by the Arab League, have said they will not resume negotiations without a "serious offer" from the United States that provides some assurance that talks are going somewhere.

Abbas said Sunday that the Palestinians had not given up on peace.

Blaming Israel

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday blamed Israel for the impasse in Middle East peace talks, and urged that the international community, especially the United States, act to take the process forward.

"We warn against the consequences of intransigence, Israel's positions and policies on the stability of the Middle East and of the world," he said in a speech to parliament.

"I say that Israel must assume responsibility for the halt in the negotiations. It must know that the security of its people will come about through peace, not by force of arms or settlements" in occupied land, he said.

"International action is currently not up to facing these consequences and dangers," Mubarak told the MPs.

"I say that the United States and other members of the international Quartet (the United Nations, the European Union and Russia) must assume their responsibilities in a serious and effective manner to end the current impasse."

Mubarak himself was present at the U.S. ceremonies kick-starting the process.

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