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Sarkozy, Abbas criticize Israel on West Bank
Paris, Sept 27 (Agencies):
Published on 27 Sep. 2010 10:41 PM IST
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he regrets that Israel did not extend the settlement construction freeze, speaking at a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on Monday.
Sarkozy said that Netanyahu had promised him to limit the construction in the West Bank. Both Abbas and Sarkozy said that the settlement freeze is imperative to core-issues within the negotiations and that settlement activity must cease.
Abbas urged the Israeli government to extend the slowdown of settlement construction for three or four months to allow for a discussion of “fundamental issues” and said that no “quick decision” would be made on whether he would leave talks. He said he would weigh his options with Palestinian leaders before discussing the matter with the 22-member Arab League next Monday.
“We will not have any quick responses,” he said. “After this chain of meetings, we might publish a position that clears up the position of the Palestinian and Arab people after Israel has refused to freeze settlements.”
The French president said he would telephone Netanyahu later Monday evening and will invite him and Abbas for a meeting in October.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Monday called on Abbas to quit peace negotiations since construction in the West Bank has resumed, AFP reported.
“I call on my brothers in the Palestinian Authority, who had stated they would not pursue talks with the enemy (Israel) if it continued settlement construction, to hold to their promise,” Mashaal said at a meeting in Syria. “To negotiate without a position of strength is absurd,” he said.
“Netanyahu is not the man who can make peace in the region,” Mashaal declared.
Earlier, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of Abbas’ negotiating team, told Israel Radio on Monday that renewed settlement activity will lead “to the breakdown of negotiations and to the breakdown of the political process.”
The expiration of an Israeli moratorium on new construction in West Bank settlements threw fledgling Middle East peace talks into turmoil on Monday as Israel, the Palestinians and the US scrambled to find a compromise that would keep the negotiations alive.
Curbs on new construction in settlements that had been in place for the past 10 months expired at midnight and Israel showed no sign of a new willingness to compromise on the issue. Palestinians regard settlement as a major obstacle to peace and have repeatedly said they will quit peace talks if Israel did not extend its restrictions.

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