Abbas: Israel must halt settlement building to help peace
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Thursday on Israel to halt settlement construction, to allow the peace process to resume, DPA reported
"If settlements stop, then we have no objection to immediately return to direct negotiations so that we can finish with borders and security. This is what we hope will happen," he told a news conference in Ramallah with visiting Finnish President Tarja Halonen.
"We will never go back on the choice of peace," he said, accusing Israel of "putting obstacles and conditions and insisting on building settlements."
The Palestinian leader has repeatedly said the peace talks will not resume until and unless Israel agrees to extend a freeze on construction at its West Bank settlements.
A previous Israeli freeze, a limited one for 10 months, expired at the end of last month, placing the recently-launched direct peace talks between the sides in limbo as efforts are made to find a solution to the impasse.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu said Monday that he would convene his government to extend the freeze, if the Palestinians recognised Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu's Jewish state demand, made in order to secure acknowledgement not only of Israel's existence, but of its right to do so, is a long-standing one from the Israeli leader, which Palestinians have rejected.
"We have previously recognized Israel," Abbas said Thursday.
"If they want to call themselves anything, they should approach the United Nations and the international community. This is not our business," he said.
"We totally believe in the two-state solution," he added. "We can never exclude this option. This is the best choice for the future of the Palestinian and Israeli people. We just do not have any other choice."
Halonen, for her part, urged the Palestinians and Israelis to support the peace process.
"It is better to say we will support them (Abbas and Netanyahu) to make success," she said. "We will make our utmost the peace process will make success."
She said Finland will continue to support efforts of the Palestinian Authority to establish "a viable state" that lives in peace alongside its neighbours, including Israel.
Halonen, on a five-day visit to the Middle East that included Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, said she hopes to return before her term ends in two years to what will be a Palestinian state. "I will visit the independent state of Palestine," she said she told Abbas.