Obama, Abbas talks 'difficult': Palestinian negotiator

AFP , Tuesday 18 Mar 2014

US President Barack Obama and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas held "long" and "difficult" talks on the Middle East peace process and no document was presented by the US side, the chief Palestinian negotiator said Tuesday.

Abbas was welcomed to the White House on Monday by Obama, who said both the Palestinians and the Israelis needed "to take some tough political decisions and risks if we're able to move it forward."

The two men met as an April deadline looms for reaching a full peace treaty set when the talks resumed in late July.

"The meeting was difficult and the meeting was long," Erakat told the Wilson Center think tank.

"Contrary to what people expected -- that we will come out of this meeting with an official American proposal document -- this has not happened."

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who persuaded the two sides to come back to the talks after a three-year hiatus, is drawing up an agreed framework due to set out the guidelines for negotiations going forward.

But US officials confirmed late Monday that no document had yet been presented to the Palestinians.

"To submit an official document we need more discussion," Erakat said.

"I am not saying that those discussions are meaningless... We are talking very seriously, very in depth."

But in line with an agreement wrested by Kerry from both sides to keep details of the negotiations secret, Erakat refused to discuss the content of the White House talks.

"No one benefits more from America's success, Kerry's success than Palestinians and no one loses more if they fail more than us. That is the truth," he said.

Both sides have expressed serious concerns over the apparent compromises being demanded to end their decades-long conflict.

Kerry has pledged the framework will address all of the core issues separating the two sides, including the fate of Palestinian refugees kicked out of Israel when it was created in 1948. It also will address the fate of Jerusalem, sought by both as capital of their future state.

Palestinians have been particularly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's insistence that they must recognize his country as "the Jewish state."

"Israel's name is the State of Israel. That's how they call themselves," Erakat said, adding that the Palestinians had already recognized its right to exist.

Palestinians fear that recognizing Israel as "the Jewish state" will torpedo their efforts to win the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

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