Palestinians demanded Wednesday that Israel explain why it suspended peace talks Tuesday only to go back on the decision hours later, and said they would not continue negotiations if such "game playing" persisted.
"If they want to come to negotiate, we will come. If they want to play games, the Palestinians will not continue," Palestinian negotiator Hassan Asfour told AFP.
An Israeli minister blamed the about-face on a misunderstanding, but Asfour said the United States should intervene to pressure Israel to be serious in the peace talks.
"We will ask the Americans what they will do about this question. Until now we have not found an Israeli partner to negotiate with. They are only wasting time," Asfour said.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office announced Tuesday that a meeting between negotiators had been cancelled and that the government was declaring a "time-out," accusing the Palestinians of failing to show the necessary will for progress.
But only hours later, his office announced that the negotiators, Gilad Sher for Israel and Saeb Erakat for the Palestinians, would meet on Wednesday.
Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Dahlan, the head of preventive security in the Gaza Strip, confirmed that the Sher-Erakat meeting would take place.
"The Palestinian side will not decide to return to the negotiations with Israel until it has an official explanation about why they stopped the negotiations and after a few hours decided to resume them," he told Voice of Palestine radio.
But he added: "We continue with our contacts with the Israeli side and Erakat will meet today an Israeli official, but we will not resume the talks just as the Israelis decide."
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that there have been no "negotiations" between the two sides since Camp David but only "contacts" from time to time.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met his negotiating team late Tuesday in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Asfour, who attended the meeting, said the mood was "angry, upset and disappointed at the Americans and Israel." -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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