Chief negotiator of Palestinians: Peace seems impossible without determining Jerusalem's status

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 27 /Trend, U.Sadikhova/

There will never be a last and comprehensive peace if the idea is to consolidate Israeli plans of turning Jerusalem into an exclusive Jewish city compared to the Palestinian approach of a multicultural city, said Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the peace process with Israel.

"Jerusalem is key for viability of a Palestinian state, Erekat told in an exclusive interview to Trend. - We envision an open and shared city capital of two states, with Israeli sovereignty over the western side and Palestinian sovereignty over the eastern side".

However, according to Erekat, today, millions of Palestinians Christians and Muslims are being banned from accessing Jerusalem.

"There will never be a last and comprehensive peace if the idea is to consolidate Israeli plans of turning Jerusalem into an exclusive Jewish city compared to the Palestinian approach of a multicultural city," said the Palestinian official.

The status of Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, remains one of the key issues in the Middle East peace process.

Israel considers whole Jerusalem its "united and indivisible" capital, while Palestinians consider the eastern part of the city as capital of their future independent state after the signing of a peace agreement. From the point of view of international law, East Jerusalem belongs to the occupied Palestinian territories, RIA Novosti reported.

"Nevertheless our position is not based on religion, but international law," Erekat said.  

"The Palestinian leadership will not accept anything less than what international law gives us," Erekat said, touching upon the status of Jerusalem in the peace process, which has been suspended over two years.
The Palestinian leadership wants nothing less than envisaged by international law.  

The best example, according to Erekat, is that in the corridor going from Ramallah to Bethlehem through East Jerusalem, which is just 30 kilometers. "We have concentrated 35 percent of our national economy," he said.

Speaking about the deportation of four Palestinian politicians - supporters of the Hamas resistance movement - from Jerusalem and depriving them of resident rights, Erekat called it part of a policy of ethnic cleansing carried out by Israel against Palestinian Jerusalemites aiming to have an exclusive Jewish city.

Three members of the Palestinian parliament and former minister were deprived by Israel of the residency rights in Jerusalem in 2006. The execution of the decision on their deportation was postponed because until recently, all four were in prison for belonging to Hamas.

International human rights activists accuse Israel of evicting 13,000 Arabs from Jerusalem, while Erekat said 20,000 Palestinians have been stripped from their residency rights. About 250,000 Arabs live in East Jerusalem, most of whom do not have Israeli citizenship.

"The situation is particularly dramatic on the case of some communities such as Palestinian Christians whose number has been enormously decreasing since 1967. What Israel is doing in occupied East Jerusalem is a war crime," Erekat said.

According o Erekat, there cannot be security or any other kind of considerations to strip someone of the right to live at his hometown. "The funniest is that the excuse is that they are not loyal to the State of Israel without considering that Israel is not their country, but the occupying power," he said.

International mediators in the peace process

Concerning the role of international mediators in unblocking the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, Erekat appreciated the role of the American administration to achieve peace in the region and called for continued support of Turkey.

In May, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed full readiness of his country to make efforts for a speedy resolution of the conflict in the Middle East.
However, Ankara's mediation in resolving regional conflict seems doubtful after the incident with the humanitarian ship "freedom of flotilla" in the Mediterranean Sea, sailing to the blocked Gaza Strip, which killed nine Turks as a result of actions of the Israeli Navy.

Erekat called on Turkey to continue supporting Palestinian and peace in the region.

"We respect the role of Turkey as an important regional player and we call on them to continue supporting Palestinian and peace in the region," he said.

Regarding the role of the main international mediator - the United States, which works on restarting direct talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Erekat appreciated the role of the American administration and their will to achieve peace in the region. President Obama has been pushing to achieve a solution since the first day he assumed in the White House in January 2009, indicating that it is time to make decisions, not just to negotiate.

"Nevertheless we call on all the parties to learn from over 17 years of negotiations, not to repeat the mistakes of the past and be courageous enough to take decisions. Negotiations are over, we all know how the solution will be. Decisions are needed," Erekat said.

Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas said he was ready to hold direct talks with Israel if they start on the basis of recognizing the possibility of creating a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and a complete freezing of construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, on which the Israeli leadership did not give consent.

On this eve, the Associated Press Agency reported that the U.S. President's special representative in the Middle East George Mitchell said that Abbas must hurry to conduct direct talks with the Israeli leadership. Otherwise, the American President Barack Obama can stop providing support to the Palestinian leader in establishing an independent state.

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