Palestinian peace talks team resigns - Abbas

Wednesday 13 November 2013 22.06
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Israel's controversial separation barrier surrounds the Ras Khamis neighbourhood of East Jerusalem
Israel's controversial separation barrier surrounds the Ras Khamis neighbourhood of East Jerusalem
Benjamin Netanyahu said the plan would make 'no contribution' to Jewish settlements
Benjamin Netanyahu said the plan would make 'no contribution' to Jewish settlements

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said his peace negotiators have resigned over the lack of progress in US-brokered statehood talks clouded by Israeli settlement building.  

The development would mark a new low point for the talks with Israel that resumed in July and which officials from both sides have said have made little headway.           

In an interview with Egyptian CBC television, Mr Abbas suggested the negotiations would continue even if thePalestinian delegation stuck to its decision.

"Either we can convince it to return, and we're trying with them, or we form a new delegation," he said.

It was unclear from Mr Abbas's interview when the Palestinian negotiators had quit, but Mr Abbas said he would need about a week to resume the talks.

In a statement to Reuters TV, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat did not elaborate on the report of his resignation, but said the sessions with Israel were frozen.

"In reality, the negotiations stopped last week in light of the settlement announcements last week," he said.       

Since the talks got under way after a three-year break, Israel has announced plans for several thousand new settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.       

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a halt to plans for the construction of 24,000 new homes in the West Bank.

He said the plan would make "no contribution" to Jewish settlements.

Mr Netanyahu added that it would create unnecessary friction with the world community at a time when Israel is pressing for a tougher stance on Iran's nuclear programme.

The US had earlier said it was "deeply concerned" over the Israeli plans

The Palestinians had said they would appeal to the UN, warning that Israel's move would kill off peace talks.

In a slap down of a key partner in his governing coalition, Mr Netanyahu reprimanded Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the pro-settler Jewish Home party for publishing the tenders "without prior coordination."            

A statement issued by Mr Netanyahu's office said he ordered Mr Ariel to reassess all of the proposed projects.             

Publication of the tenders "created a needless confrontation with the international community just when we are making an effort to persuade (it) to reach a better agreement with Iran," the statement said.             

"World attention must not be diverted from the primary goal- preventing Iran from achieving an agreement that would enable it to continue its nuclear military programme."

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only atomic power, has been pushing for total dismantling of Iran's nuclear-enrichment capabilities and cautioning against any premature easing of economic sanctions.            

Palestinians fear Israel's settlements in areas it captured in the 1967 Middle East war will deny them a viable state.

Most countries consider the enclaves illegal under international law. The United States describes the settlements as illegitimate. 

Israel cites historical and biblical links to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more than 500,000 Israelis live alongside 2.5 million Palestinians.