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Abbas seeks talks if Israel halts West Bank construction

(JTA) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly said he wanted to negotiate with Israel it if freezes construction for six months in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Abbas made the statement on Sunday in Qatar during a meeting of Arab League nations in Doha, The Jerusalem Post reported. He was responding to statements by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasem al-Thani calling on Arab nations to reconsider their 2002 peace initiative. 

Arab nations should be “keeping the [2002] Arab Peace Initiative on the table,” Abbas said, adding, “We want to discuss with you a mechanism that would lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian and Arab territories, including Jerusalem, the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and halting settlement construction.”

“If this happens, there could be feasible negotiations. Also, we could return to the point where we stopped during the era of Ehud Olmert’s government, when we put all the final-status issues on the table. We reached many understandings on over these issues.”

Abbas said the two sides had reached understandings on the borders, Jerusalem and the refugees.

The PA leader also urged Arab nations to provide financial assistance to cover a new monthly $100 million budgetary shortfall after the United Nations General Assembly voted to enhance the Palestinians’ statehood status — the result of a punitive Israeli measure.

‘‘We are in a collapsing state now. We can’t pay our salaries. So you have to offer this safety net," Abbas told the Arab League delegates. "Do you agree, are you committed and how much will you pledge? We have to know your position soon.’’

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