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Mideast negotiations appear to remain elusive

UNITED NATIONS — Israelis and Palestinians showed no sign Thursday that they were willing to narrow the gaps that have stalled their negotiations for years, an ominous sign for the U.S.-led effort to curb a Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations.

The Associated Press quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying there was no talk about a freeze of construction of Jewish settlements. And a top Palestinian official said the Palestinians would not drop their twin conditions for negotiating: that Israel stop building on lands the Palestinians want for a future state and that Israel agree to base talks on the borders as they existed before the 1967 war.

"There will be no negotiations whatsoever as long as Israel refuses to freeze settlement construction and accept the 1967 lines as the terms of reference for the negotiations," said Azzam Ahmed, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In a sign of the frustration that led to the U.N. campaign, Ahmed said the Palestinians were even prepared to consider dismantling their limited self-rule government, the Palestinian Authority, an unlikely move that would make Israel responsible for the welfare and policing of 2.5 million unwanted Palestinian subjects.

"If we don't get membership and there are no negotiations, the existence of the Palestinian Authority under Israeli hegemony can't be justified," Ahmed said. "Handing the keys to the Israeli side has become a very realistic option. We can't keep the PA without real power."

Further underscoring the hardening Palestinian position, negotiator and senior Abbas adviser Nabeel Shaath said the leadership was not prepared to give ground.

"We made lots of concessions over the years. It's time the Israelis make the concessions," he told the Associated Press.

He also ruled out a New York meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had proposed that the two sit down together on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session in New York this week.

The United States and other international mediators have been trying to cobble together a formula that would allow the Palestinians to abandon their plan to ask the U.N. Security Council today to recognize a Palestinian state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto such a request.

Mideast negotiations appear to remain elusive 09/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 10:53pm]
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