Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Qureia: Jerusalem the key to resolving conflict

Chief Palestinian negotiator says 'if Israelis elect Netanyahu, we will accept it, but there will not be peace without Jerusalem.' Adds: People tend to say one thing when they are in the opposition and something else when they're in office
Roee Nahmias

The top negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Qureia, said on Monday that he "has great respect for the way (Kadima Chairwoman) Tzipi Livni works." Speaking at a conference organized by the Council for Peace and Security, Qureia said that Livni "is trustworthy enough to say yes or no – 'this you can have and this you can't.' She didn't say she would give Jerusalem, but she said it would be on the table. And why shouldn't it be? How will the Palestinians agree on a deal without Jerusalem? No one can imagine this happening. Jerusalem is the key to peace."

After deciding earlier this week to halt the negotiations on the formation of a coalition under her leadership, Livni told Ynet that she had refused to guarantee Shas that Jerusalem's future would not be discussed during the talks with the Palestinians.

"They want to stifle the peace negotiations, and I won't allow it," Livni said.

'Peace initiative strategic change'

Qureia added that he did not believe a peace agreement was attainable by the end of the year. "In any case, the efforts will continue during the talks with Livni and (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert. It is vital that we carry on with the process," he said.

Responding to Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu's speech Sunday at the opening of the Knesset's winter session, in which he said that "we will not return to the 1967 borders" and that the issue of Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees was "nonnegotiable", Qureia said "people tend to say one thing when they are in the opposition and something else when they're in office."

"If the Israeli nation elects Netanyahu, we will accept it," the Palestinian negotiator said. "There will not be peace without Jerusalem. Those who strive for peace must put Jerusalem on the table."

Qureia stressed the importance of the Arab peace initiative as a "strategic change."

"The Arabs agreed that peace is their strategy; that they are prepared for normalization," he told the conference.

Qureia praised Israeli President Shimon Peres for "accepting" the Arab initiative during his recent meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and urged Israel to also hold peace talks with Syria and Lebanon.

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