Palestinian negotiation team resigns over Israeli settlements

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Palestinian negotiators resigned on Wednesday from U.S.-mediated peace talks with the Israelis, citing a lack of progress clouded by Israeli settlement building, President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday.

Peace talks resumed in July after a three-year hiatus but continued Israeli settlement expansions repeatedly threatened to break them.

President Abbas said the peace talks would continue despite the resignation of his negotiation team.

“Either we can convince them to return, and we're trying with them, or we form a new delegation,” he told Egyptian privately-owned CBC television.

It was unclear from Abbas's interview when the Palestinian negotiators had quit, but Abbas said he would need about a week to resume the talks.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told Reuters on Wednesday that talks with Israel were frozen, but did not elaborate on the report of his resignation.

“In reality, the negotiations stopped last week in light of the settlement announcements last week,” he said.

Israel has announced plans for building several thousand new settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Housing Ministry had commissioned separate plans for nearly 24,000 more homes for Israelis in the two areas, despite U.S. and Palestinian warnings that such moves threaten peace talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an advocate of settlement construction, intervened late on Tuesday, ordering a halt to the projects and saying he had no prior knowledge of them.

Netanyahu said he feared such settlement activity could trigger an international outcry that would divert attention from Israel's lobbying against a deal between world powers and Iran that would ease economic sanctions on Tehran without dismantling its nuclear-enrichment capabilities.

(With Reuters)

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