Palestinians have other options if talks fail: Abbas
The Palestinians will explore alternative ways to gain international recognition if US efforts to advance peace talks with Israel fail, president Mahmud Abbas said on Tuesday.
"We will spare no effort in pursuing this process and we have no choice but the choice of peace, we will continue with the peace process and we hope that US efforts will succeed," Abbas said at a news conference with German President Christian Wulff.
"And even if they don't succeed, we will go to other options within the framework of peace and international legitimacy, to arrive at the establishment of an independent Palestinian state," he said.
The Palestinian leadership has said repeatedly in recent weeks that it is considering a range of alternatives, including seeking United Nations recognition for an independent declaration of statehood, if peace talks do not resume.
Direct talks that began in September stalled shortly after they started when an Israeli moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank expired.
The Palestinians have said they will not return to the talks unless the construction ban is renewed, but Israel has so far refused to reimpose the ban.
The United States has been working on a letter of agreement that would offer Israel a range of incentives in exchange for a new moratorium, but no final paper has been released.
And even if Washington can agree on a formulation with Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister has pledged any new freeze would not halt building in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want included in a new moratorium.
Abbas, speaking after meeting with Wulff, challenged Netanyahu to show his commitment to the peace process.
"If Benjamin Netanyahu said we don't want peace, he should try us," Abbas said. "We extend our hand to him and we extended our hands to Shimon Peres and the late Yitzhak Rabin."
Abbas rejected the suggestion that an interim agreement setting up temporary borders for a future Palestinian state could advance the peace process.
"There is no reason why a solution cannot be implemented over a year or two, but we do not want a temporary Palestinian state," he said.
After talking with Wulff, who has been touring Israel and the Palestinian territories since Sunday, Abbas also praised Germany's role in attempting to mediate in negotiations over the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and called for him to be freed.
"This man wants to return to his family as quickly as possible," Abbas said, adding that he had called for "his release from the beginning.
"Unfortunately we don't have an avenue to discuss the subject with Hamas," he added. "I call on them to release their prisoner and we also call on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners."
Shalit has not been seen by outside observers or by Red Cross representatives since his capture in a deadly raid along the Gaza border by Palestinian militants in June 2006.
The last official information on his well-being emerged in October 2009, when Hamas released a videotape of the young soldier calling on Netanyahu to do everything to free him.
© 2010 AFP