Chief Palestinian negotiator to Kerry: Israeli settlement expansion could derail peace talks



Saeb Erekat refrains from threatening boycott of the talks, while Palestinian officials claim Israel’s plans for new settlement construction adds to the already heavy pressure on the PA.

With a second round of Israeli-Palestinian talks slated to take place next week, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat yesterday sent a furious letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry demanding that he stop Israel from moving forward on plans for new settlement construction

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume peace talks in Jerusalem on August 14, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday, confirming earlier reports.

“Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians will be resuming August 14 in Jerusalem and will be followed by a meeting in Jericho (in the West Bank),” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told a briefing.

Psaki said Thursday that U.S. Mideast peace envoy Martin Indyk and deputy special envoy Frank Lowenstein will travel to the region to facilitate talks to craft a two-state solution to the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The announcement came as Israel said it had given preliminary approval for the construction of more than 800 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a move that would complicate peace negotiations.

Psaki said Washington had taken up the issue with the Israelis.

“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity and opposes any efforts to legitimize settlement outpost,” Psaki said.

“The Secretary has made clear that he believes both the negotiating teams are at the table in good faith and are committed to making progress,” she added.

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – lands Israel captured in 1967. The renewed talks are to draw the borders of such a state.

As part of the talks, Israel is to free 26 long-held Palestinian prisoners on August 13, the first of some 104 veteran prisoners to be freed.

The sides held their first peace negotiations in nearly three years in Washington on July 30 in U.S.-mediated efforts to end the conflict of more than six decades.



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