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Abbas says NATO force can patrol Palestinian state

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(JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would be willing to allow a U.S.-led NATO force to patrol a Palestinian state for an indefinite amount of time.

Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlements could remain for five years from the state’s establishment, Abbas also said in an interview with The New York Times published on Monday, adding two years to a previous offer.

Abbas also said the Palestinian state would be demilitarized — it would not have an army, only a peace force.

The third party force would remain “to reassure the Israelis, and to protect us,” Abbas told New York Times reporter Jodi Rudoren and columnist Tom Friedman at his Ramallah headquarters.

The NATO proposal had the support of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush.

“We will be demilitarized,” Abbas told the newspaper. “Do you think we have any illusion that we can have any security if the Israelis do not feel they have security?”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly will present the two sides with a framework agreement to guide the rest of the talks in the coming weeks.

Abbas asserted, as did Netanyahu before him, that the framework is not binding, saying of Kerry’s trial agreement,  “He has the right to do whatever he wants, and at the end we have the right to say whatever we want.”

The Palestinian leader called recognizing Israel as a Jewish state “out of the question,” and pointed out that Jordan and Egypt did not sign anything to that effect when they signed peace treaties with Israel.

Abbas said that at the end of the nine months set aside for the peace talks, in April, he would be willing to extend the negotiations if progress is being made.

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