VILNIUS, Lithuania — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Tuesday Israel would be to blame if ongoing peace talks collapsed over its military control of a border with Jordan.
"We will not accept it, and if they [the talks] collapse, they [the Israelis] will be the reason for the collapse, not us," Abbas told the Baltic News Service during a visit to Lithuania, current holder of the European Union's rotating presidency.
Israeli daily Maariv reported last week that negotiations almost collapsed in September due to conflicting positions on future borders, particularly where the eastern West Bank adjoins Jordan.
Israel has long stated that it seeks to retain a long-term military presence along the Jordan Valley.
But Palestinians flatly object to any Israeli military on land that could become the eastern front of a future Palestinian state.
"They don't have the right to stay in our territories after we signed a peace treaty," Abbas said Tuesday, while stressing that he accepts a future demilitarized Palestinian state.
"We want, according to the Oslo Agreement, a strong police force. This is exactly what we want, how we understand, how they understand, how the Americans understand it," the Palestinian leader said.
Abbas also hailed the European Union's (EU's)demand on Monday that Israel stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Construction starts in Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land rose by 70 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2013, anti-settlement group Peace Now said last week.
Speaking for the 28-member EU, Lithuania said Monday that settlements were impeding the peace process.
"They [EU countries] will implement their proposal [addressing the settlements] at the beginning of 2014, which is very, very important for the peace process," Abbas added, terming this a "strong signal to Israel".
Settlement building in the territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War is considered illegal under international law, and the issue remains one of the most divisive in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
U.S.-sponsored direct peace talks resumed in late July after a hiatus of nearly three years.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the talks, taking place under a US-imposed media blackout, have "intensified."
© AFP 2013