Abbas demands release of prisoners before Israel talks
Published Sunday, June 10, 2012
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that Israel free Palestinian prisoners taken before the 1993 Oslo peace accord before any new negotiations start.
Speaking aboard a plane after talks in Paris, Abbas laid out his requirements to resume the comprehensive peace talks which stalled in September 2010: an end to Jewish settlement building in the Palestinian territories, and the recognition of the 1967 borders as a starting point.
He said he had urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to free all 123 Palestinians detained by Israel since before the 1993 Oslo accord, adding that their release had been agreed "but Israel has not honored its commitment."
"If it frees these prisoners, there could be a meeting with Mr Netanyahu for a session of dialogue but that doesn't mean negotiations," the Palestinian leader said.
Earlier in Paris, Abbas said the Palestinians, who saw their full United Nations membership blocked by a US veto threat, may accept non-member state status.
He told reporters during his Paris visit that if Israel does not resume peace negotiations, "we will of course go to the (UN) General Assembly to obtain non-member status, as was the case for Switzerland and the Vatican."
The Palestinians applied for full UN membership last September, but the application hit a deadlock at the Security Council, where the United States threatened a veto to protect its close ally Israel.
The Palestinians' envoy to the United Nations that Israel's new surge in settlement building in the Palestinian territories is destroying hopes for any return to peace talks.
Israeli has announced plans for hundreds of new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem in recent weeks, despite them being illegal under international law.
The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, has stepped up calls for the UN Security Council to visit the Palestinian territories.
Non-Aligned Movement countries on the council said they would propose the visit, which Israel and the United Nations have opposed in the past.
Israel continues to suppress Palestinians by maintaining a siege on Gaza and occupying the West Bank.