Palestinian officials block John Kerry Middle East peace talks

PLO executive committee had been expected to rubber stamp approval

Jerusalem

Hopes that Israeli and Palestinian leaders could imminently resume peace talks were dealt a blow tonight when Palestinian officials unexpectedly refused to back US Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest initiative.

Expectations that the two sides could be about to hold direct talks for the first time since 2010 were raised earlier this week when Arab League representatives approved Mr Kerry’s plan. A meeting of the PLO executive committee in Ramallah that had been expected to rubber stamp Palestinian approval instead broke up without any agreement. The committee is expected to reconvene tomorrow.

The sticking point for the Palestinians appears to be Israeli settlement building in the West Bank. Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, but have nonetheless continued to be built. Earlier this week the European Union enacted a new rule that prohibits member states from offering assistance to Israel, unless settlements were specifically excluded from any agreement.

Unlike the last time the two sides met there will be no formal moratorium on settlement building. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was invisibly angry when US president, Barack Obama, said that peace talks must resume with pre-conditions during a joint press conference held by the two men in March. 

The Kerry plan, if accepted by both sides, will lead to face-to-face talks based on the creation of two states, based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps to take account of what are commonly known as ‘facts on the ground’ – or the settlement blocs.

Despite the Arab League’s “full support” for Mr Kerry’s proposals, senior Palestinian officials appeared not to be as willing to support the plan, with one last night saying that the committee required more time.

Should the Palestinians eventually agree to sit down with the Israelis, Mr Kerry will be able to claim his first significant diplomatic coup. He has privately been maligned by both Israelis and Palestinians over the last four months, during which time he has visited the region six times, as being naïve and leading a process that neither side was interested in.

Few gave Mr Kerry much hope for an early breakthrough, even as he arrived in Amman earlier this week. He was not originally scheduled to meet Israeli officials, but following a meeting on Wednesday with nine Arab League officials it became clear that Arab opposition to his initiative was not as deeply entrenched as previously thought.

Hopes of progress were hinted at today when Israel’s elderly president, Shimon Peres, who has pushed both sides to accept Kerry’s efforts, suggested that there was progress. “From the latest information at my disposal, Secretary Kerry has succeeded in advancing the chance for opening peace talks,” he said.

“I am grateful for his efforts and I know that the endeavour [sic] is a serious one. The coming days are crucial and we are within touching distance. I believe that the significant effort will bear fruit on both the Israeli and the Palestinian side – both parties are making an effort to overcome the final obstacles.”

At least one newspaper close to the government reported that the President Abbas had decided to agree to talks.

Mr Kerry has invested a lot of capital in this latest process. However, getting the two sides to talk is only the first stage in a long process. Long standing problems such as the status of Jerusalem, which both sides consider to be their capital; the right of return of Palestinian refugees and the recognition of Israel by hardline Palestinian groups such as Hamas, which controls Gaza, are all serious problems that need to be overcome before any last deal is reached.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?