Palestinians: Israel must agree on borders

A stormy, high-level meeting of senior Palestinian leaders called to discuss US secretary of state John Kerry’s latest peace proposal ended with a decision early Friday to demand guarantees that Israel agree on the general border of a future Palestinian state, officials said.

The demand casts a cloud of uncertainty over months of US mediation efforts because Israel is weary of agreeing to preconditions, arguing it has not led to successful peace talks in the past. Palestinian officials said they wanted guarantees to ensure peace talks would lead to fruition.

Hoping to push Israelis and Palestinians toward talks, US President Barack Obama asked Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to work with Kerry “to resume negotiations with Palestinians as soon as possible,” according to a statement released by the White House late Thursday.

After two separate meetings, Palestinian officials said they decided to send top negotiator Saeb Erekat to meet with Kerry “and inform him that Palestinians want guarantees regarding the general border,” said Wasel Abu Yussef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, who was in the meeting.

A US official said Kerry will meet Friday with Erekat in Amman, Jordan. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss Kerry’s schedule publicly, said there are no immediate plans for Kerry to meet an Israeli negotiator.

Abu Yussef was referring to Israel’s de facto border that separates the Jewish state from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories that Israel conquered in the 1967 Mideast war, alongside the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians claim those territories for their future state, with modifications reached through agreed “land swaps” that would see major Jewish settlement blocks built in the West bank becoming part of Israel proper, in exchange for territories elsewhere.

Abu Yussef said Erekat would also ask for more clarifications from Kerry on what Israel expects from negotiations.

Yussef said Palestinians did not want to reject Kerry’s efforts to restart negotiations outright. Another official in the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity, said they felt pressure from Palestinians to not restart negotiations if they could not be seen producing substantive outcomes.

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