RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Tuesday that if peace talks with Israel fail he may dismantle the Palestinian Authority and hand over responsibility for 2.5 million of his people to Israel.
Abbas told a group of visiting Israeli reporters that their country’s policies have left his West Bank government powerless and that if it continues its path he will “let it come and run this authority.”
The nine-month period outlined by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to reach the outlines of a peace accord ends in a week. The two sides remain locked in dispute over the terms of extending talks and have made no apparent progress on major issues.
Under heavy pressure from Kerry, Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks last July, agreeing to a nine-month negotiating period with the aim of reaching a final peace deal. With little to show for his efforts, Kerry has been trying to broker a more modest “framework” agreement, in hopes of extending talks through the end of the year to complete a deal.
In a soothing message, Abbas said contacts could continue even after the April 29 deadline. But for talks to resume, he said Israel must freeze settlement construction and the talks must focus on the final borders.
“In order for us to resume the talks, if Israel believes in the two states, let’s sit on a table and see where are the borders of Israel, let’s define the borders, where are the borders of Israel and where are the borders of Palestine,” he said.
Also Tuesday, rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah met in the Gaza Strip for reconciliation talks. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said his movement was “open for unity” and welcomes its Fatah partners.
Palestinians have been divided since 2007 when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Abbas, of Fatah. Since then, Hamas has ruled Gaza while Abbas governs some areas in the West Bank.
Past reconciliation attempts have failed.