Palestine has other options if peace negotiations with Israel eventually fail, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday in Ankara, describing global recognition of the Palestinian state as the most important alternate option.
There is no sign of will on the Israeli side to either restart talks or stop the building of new settlements, Abbas said at a joint press conference following talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gül.
“We cannot maintain peace negotiations if settlement building is not stopped. We have other options, and we have informed Turkey and the Arab countries that if the talks cannot be restarted, then we will pass on to implementing those options,” Abbas said, while President Gül highlighted that putting an end to the construction of new settlements was “vital” for restarting talks. Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have faltered following the end of a temporary ban on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank. Abbas says he will not return to negotiations while Israel continues to build on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
But Israel has so far refused to impose a new ban. Abbas answered in the negative when asked by a journalist whether “dissolution of the Palestinian government” was one of the options he mentioned.
“However, if negotiations end with failure, then we have five or six options including, particularly, the recognition of Palestine by other world states,” Abbas added, in remarks translated from Arabic to Turkish by an interpreter. The Palestinian leader cited Brazil’s recent recognition of the state of Palestine based on the borders before Israel seized control of the West Bank in 1967 and Argentina’s declaration of intention to do the same thing. “We will implement our options successively. We hope that we will not have to choose difficult options,” Abbas also said.
Brazil announced its decision last week, with the Foreign Ministry saying the recognition was in response to a request made by Abbas to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva earlier this year. As of Monday, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Abed Rabbo stated that the recognition of an independent Palestine by the state of Brazil has encouraged others, like Argentina, to follow suit. Rabbo also said Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner confirmed in a telephone call to Abbas on Sunday that her country would recognize an independent Palestine within the pre-1967 borders.
The Palestinian Authority was established after an interim peace deal with Israel in 1993 gave Palestinians limited autonomy in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and where Palestinians want to establish a state.
Last Friday, Abbas already said if peace negotiations collapse, the Palestinians might seek unilateral UN recognition of a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in 1967. Dismantling the Palestinian Authority would be a last resort, Abbas told Palestine TV in an interview broadcast late Friday.
Palestinian officials have express increasing frustration with the stalemate in the Washington-sponsored talks with Israel, which reached an impasse shortly after they resumed in September over the issue of Jewish settlements. On Thursday, a Palestinian official said Washington had officially informed them that attempts to secure a new Israeli settlement freeze had failed, but US officials have refused to confirm or deny the report.
Gül expressed pleasure over Brazil and Argentina’s decisions for recognition while underlining that Turkey has already recognized the Palestinian state. “Without doubt, it is a fact that not only a Palestinian government exists, but also a Palestinian state exists. We would like everybody else to recognize [the Palestinian state] like we have done. East Jerusalem will be the capital and Palestine will stand on its own two feet; we share this view with everybody,” Gül said when asked whether Turkey would exert any particular effort for global recognition of the Palestinian state.
Both Abbas and Gül stressed that national unity among rival Palestinian groups is a must for resolving the Palestinian issue.
Abbas had separate bilateral meetings with both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Sunday. Palestinian Ambassador to Turkey Nabil Maarouf was quoted by Palestinian media as saying that Erdoğan told Abbas he would urge all countries with which Turkey has diplomatic ties to support such a move.
Earlier on Monday, Abbas attended a ceremony in Ankara organized by the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) for sending off five trucks loaded with humanitarian assistance to Palestinian children. “The trucks going from Ankara to Ramallah and Gaza taking assistance to Palestinians are proving one particular thing if nothing else: Turkish people’s determination to help the Palestinian people despite martyrs they have lost,” Abbas said at the press conference, in an apparent reference to Israeli forces’ killing of eight Turks and one Turkish-American on an aid ship trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza on May 31.
Plans for the construction of water purification facilities in Palestine and the building of an industry zone in the West Bank city of Jenin by Turkey were among other issues discussed during talks between Abbas and the Turkish leaders.