Palestinian negotiator: Israeli settlements are the reason for the difficulties
A top Palestinian negotiator on Thursday said peace talks with Israel were “difficult and complicated”, after a meeting between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The situation is still very difficult and matters are complicated,” Saeb Erakat told AFP.
“Abbas met Kerry for four hours… and discussed issues including security. We hope Israel will stick to its commitments and be forced to stop settlement building. Settlements are the reason for the difficulties in negotiations,” he said.
Kerry met Abbas at the president’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah after a more than three-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The US top diplomat reiterated the importance of Israel’s security, which was the focus of his first visit to the region since signing an historic nuclear deal with Iran, an accord which angered the Israelis.
“We are not going to discuss this further publicly,” Kerry told reporters after the meeting Abbas, saying only that their discussions on security had made “progress”.
“I think the interests are very similar, but there are questions of sovereignty, questions of respect and dignity, which are obviously significant to the Palestinians, and for the Israelis very serious questions of security.
“Shortly, perhaps in a week or so, I may return for further discussions, depending on where we are,” Kerry added.
Abbas made no public appearance after the meeting.
Israel’s construction of settlements on land the Palestinians want for their future state has threatened to derail US-brokered peace talks just months after they began in July.
The Palestinian negotiating team has already presented its resignation over the issue, but Abbas has not yet accepted it.