Palestinian leader says negotiation team will not resign from peace talks, but solving Arafat murder seems priority
"We have committed to continue the negotiations for nine months, regardless of what happens on the ground. We are committed and we will go to the full nine months, and then we will take the appropriate decision," he said.
The Palestinian leader's comments came in an interview at his headquarters in Ramallah, where he told reporters that the Palestinians' decision to continue participating in the talks should be accompanied with "an international inquiry to determine who was responsible" for the death of Yasser Arafat after reports released earlier this month indicate that the former Palestinian leader was indeed poisoned.
Abbas has previously said late last week that his negotiation team had resigned from the talks in response to Israel's continued settlement construction and plans. However, Abbas said that the Palestinian leadership had not "officially" accepted the resignation and would be meeting with the negotiation team to discuss their decision.
Talks have between Israelis and Palestinians have been underway since late July and a nine month deadline was set to reach a solution. However, Israel's new construction plans in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have significantly undermined the progress of the talks, and the recent announcement confirming Arafat's death was linked to poisoning has shifted focus away from the talks' success. As Abbas' comments indicate, Palestinian leadership seems to be more concerned on determining who killed Arafat in late 2004 and if Israel, who is most often blamed for the killing, was involved.
"That is why we are demanding an international inquiry, like the one France demanded for (the murder of Lebanon's former premier) Rafik Hariri, to discover who killed Yasser Arafat," he said.