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Palestinians Say Talks ‘Meaningless’ Without Building Freeze

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told international mediators that further Middle East peace talks would be “meaningless” unless Israel freezes construction at West Bank settlements.

Erakat led a team that met today with representatives of the so-called Quartet, a group comprising the U.S., Russia, the European Union and United Nations that is seeking to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We cannot understate the importance of this issue,” Erakat said in an e-mailed statement. “So long as Israel continues to violate previous agreements, including its obligations to freeze settlements and stop attacks against our people, resuming negotiations would be meaningless.”

The Quartet representatives, led by former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, have been trying to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to peace negotiations, which were suspended last year. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he won’t return to talks unless Israel freezes all construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a 10-month temporary freeze on most building in the West Bank that expired at the end of September 2010, leading the Palestinians to break off peace talks. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have accused each other of violating earlier agreements and initiating violence.

Next Move

Palestinian leaders are mulling their next move after failing to line up enough support for their goal of attaining full membership in the United Nations. The admissions committee of the 15-member UN Security Council adopted a report that says the body can’t recommend taking the Palestinian bid further. By their own count, the Palestinians are still one vote short of the nine needed in the council.

Even if they secured the necessary Security Council votes, the bid would fail. The U.S. has said it will exercise its veto to stop the Palestinians from becoming full UN members unless they first reach a peace agreement with Israel.

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