Abbas talks to Erdogan, Gul about Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

Photo: Abbas talks to Erdogan, Gul about Israeli-Palestinian peace talks / Arab-Israel Relations

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently spoke with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul over the telephone to discuss a recent initiative launched by US Secretary of State John Kerry to resume peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

According to officials for the Prime Ministry and the presidency, Abbas, in two separate conversations, briefed Erdogan and Gul about his talks with Kerry regarding joint efforts to revive direct peace talks after almost three years of a stalemate.

On Friday, Kerry announced that an agreement had been reached between Israel and Palestine that establishes the basis for resuming peace talks. The peace talks are expected to start in Washington in the upcoming weeks. However, Kerry warned that the agreement is not final and still needs to be formalized, suggesting that further diplomacy is necessary.

Abbas and the two top Turkish officials also addressed national reconciliation between Palestinian groups al-Fatah and Hamas. Erdogan said, according to officials, that Turkey is adamant on supporting Palestine in its "righteous fight."

Hamas and al-Fatah are two rival groups in Palestine; currently, each is running one of two different governments in Palestinian territory. Abbas' US-backed al-Fatah administration controls the West Bank, while the Islamist Hamas runs the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and does not recognize Abbas' authority. Turkey has pressed for reconciliation between Hamas and al-Fatah, noting the division as an obstacle to the resolution of the Palestinian issue.

The two groups, Hamas and al-Fatah, disagree over a possible two-state solution, an issue that is on table for the expected peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Hamas is opposed to co-existence with Israel as well as peace talks with the Jewish state, while the Palestinian Authority, al-Fatah, demands of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel's pre-1967 border serve as a baseline for negotiations. However, Israel does not accept this demand as pre-condition.

On Sunday, a senior Palestinian official said that the path to formal negotiations with Israel is still blocked despite the US suggestion that the sides are close to returning to the table, casting doubts on prospects for resumption of peace talks.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for President Abbas, said in a statement late Sunday that for actual peace talks to resume, Israel must first accept its pre-1967 war frontier as a baseline and halt settlement building, demands Israel's leader has rejected in the past. The Palestinians seek a state in the lands Israel captured in 1967.

Peacemaking has ebbed and flowed for two decades between Israel and the Palestinians, last breaking down in late 2010 over Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where, along with the Gaza Strip, Palestinians seek statehood.

The Palestinians, with international backing, have said that their state must have borders approximating the territories' boundaries before Israel occupied them in the 1967 Middle East War -- a demand hard to reconcile with Israel's insistence on keeping swaths of settlements under any eventual peace accord.

Palestinians and Israelis, if they sit down at the negotiating table in the upcoming weeks, will need to settle the issue of borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.

Turkish officials and Abbas also discussed the recent developments in Egypt, which was shaken in early July with a coup d'état that overthrew the government of President Mohammed Morsi, replacing it with an interim administration.

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