Abbas terms for direct talks 'impossible': Israel minister
Israel on Wednesday accused Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas of imposing "impossible" conditions for moving to direct peace talks.
"The Palestinians have set three impossible conditions: that the negotiations start from the point they left off at the end of 2008... that they be based on a total Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and that the freeze of (settlement) construction continue," vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told public radio.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman insisted there could be no preconditions and that "everybody has his right to put everything on the table for discussion."
The comments came ahead of a scheduled meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Thursday to decide whether to endorse a move to direct negotiations after nearly three months of US-brokered indirect talks that have shown little sign of progress.
Washington has been pressing the two sides for more than a year to relaunch direct talks which were suspended after the start of the Gaza war in December 2008.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is ready to meet with Abbas at any time but the Palestinians have demanded certain guarantees they say are necessary to ensure that these talks succeed where past rounds have failed.
Specifically, they want Israel to accept the 1967 borders, demarcating the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, as the basis for the negotiations, as well as a complete halt to all settlement activity on Palestinian land.
Lieberman dismissed the demands.
"Everything is open for discussion and each side will put his agenda on the table or position, but it is impossible in advance to agree a specific agenda on the 1967 lines, settlements or refugees," he said after talks with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos in Jerusalem.
Israel imposed in November a limited moratorium on the construction of settler homes in the West Bank, which the Palestinians rejected as insufficient because it did not include east Jerusalem or projects already under way.
Lieberman insisted the 10-month moratorium would not be extended after it concludes on September 25.
Israel occupied the mostly Arab half of the city in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community. It views the entire city as its "eternal, undivided" capital.
The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state, and the city's fate has been one of the most intractable issues in past rounds of negotiations going back to the early 1990s.
Moratinos insisted full negotiations should be held to address such key issues.
"If you want to make peace, if you want to make a final settlement, you need to meet directly," he said at a news conference with Lieberman.
Abbas and Netanyahu "meeting together urgently, directly, without preconditions, I think is the best way to move forward," he added.
© 2010 AFP