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US absence in Middle East talks sparks concern

PLO says Israel is barring US diplomats from attending meetings

Gulf News

Ramallah: Palestinian officials have expressed deep concern about the absence of Americian representation in peace talks with Israel, with key officials arguing that the lack of US participation gives Israel a chance to continue construction of Jewish colonies.

US diplomats have not attended a single meeting with Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams, according to Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee, on the Voice of Palestine radio, blaming Israel for barring American officials from attending.

“The US Administration had pledged to play an active and direct part of all the peace talks between the parties, but the Israelis insists on the US absence, giving US officials no chance to attend those negotiating meetings so far,” he said.

“The US absence is a serious problem which should be tackled instantly as [it] will negatively affect the path of the negotiations and minimise the chances of possible progress.”

Addressing the Palestinian public, Abed Rabbo said that the continued unrestricted Israeli colony construction also poses a serious threat to the resumption and continuation of the peace talks. “With Israeli insistence on colony construction, the peace process ends up as a mere cover for the continued [colonisation] on lands the Palestinians claim for their future state,” he said. “The peace negotiations then will end up with catastrophic results.”

Abed Rabbo called on the international community to use all available political strategies with all the Israeli parties, warning them of the potentially severe consequences of the collapse of the peace process.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has urged the US Administration and the Mideast Quartet to put an immediate end to the continuing Israeli colony construction, terming it illegal and illegitimate. “Continued Israeli colony construction is destroying the peace process,” warned the ministry in a statement.

The ministry urged the Palestinian, regional, and international concerned parties to document Israeli violations and colony constructions in the 1967 areas to sue Israeli in international courts and UN institutions.

Palestinian factions are currently working on establishing a new joint coalition to oppose the peace negotiations with Israel. “We fully support the creation of this broad coalition to go against the peace talks the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) currently conducts with Israel,” said Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO Executive Committee.

“The Palestinian negotiating team has resumed the peace talks with Israel without any kind of political cover from the PLO or the other Palestinian factions and all of these groups categorically reject the resumption of the peace talks after the Palestinian fair demands were dropped,” he told Gulf News.