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Middle East

'If Kerry's efforts fail, anything is possible'

Confusion over the language in an American framework agreement could trigger the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia tells DW.

DW: What is the biggest obstacle to a peace agreement?

Ahmed Qureia: The settlements are the most dangerous obstacles to any peace agreement. Unfortunately, the Israelis are continuing expanding settlements and have continued all violations on the West Bank in general.

With settlements I don't believe there will be a possibility of any kind of agreement. Since we started the negotiations in July last year there have been more than 10,000 housing units built in settlements, agreed to by the municipality and the Israeli government.

Simultaneous with the negotiations there are expansions of settlements, which contradicts completely the intention of reaching real peace. In the period since the negotiations were re-started 240 Palestinian houses were demolished in Jerusalem alone and more than 40 Palestinians have been killed.

If you want peace, you stop all kinds of violations. In our opinion all settlements are illegal. There are many security council resolutions and even the US have voted for these saying that Jerusalem is part of the occupied territories and the settlements are illegal. If this is not recognized it will be difficult to reach an agreement.

There is an understanding that a framework agreement will be very detailed this time, not like the Clinton parameters - that it won't be vague or ambiguous.

I am speaking about how it is now, I am not speaking about how it will be after the meeting with Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - the ed.]. This is what the Americans are trying to produce. Maybe it will be adjusted here and there, but up to this moment this is what they are trying to do.

If Abu Mazen accepts under pressure, what do you think the popular response will be from Palestinians?

Mazen's position is the Palestinian position, Abu Mazen represents all groups. Palestinians will continue to resist against the occupation. Don't make assumptions that are not realistic [if he does accept].

If peace talks fail, could there be another intifada?

If [US Secretary of State John] Kerry's efforts fail anything is possible.

I am not speaking about an intifada, but anything is possible. The people want peace, they want to live in peace and they want their rights. If it's not achieved what will they do?

What is Palestinian position if the Kerry plan is carried out, are you actually able to come up with some concessions on that matter?

Aerial shot of Jerusalem Copyright: DW/K. Shuttleworth

Jerusalem is a key bone of contention

We have made all the concessions we can. What further concessions do you think we can make? To leave Jerusalem, to accept all these settlements?

We are unable to give part of our body - we cannot give our hands, or our legs. This is the right of the Palestinian people - it's been recognized across the world.

Look to Europe now, they are fed up and they are calling for

boycotts of settlement goods in the West Bank.

It's a very fair position, we highly appreciate it.

What do you think of the state of negotiations and Kerry's efforts?

Kerry is working toward a framework or terms of reference for the negotiations, which is good and bad. It's good to create a framework for the negotiations on the basis of international legitimacy, international law and the Madrid process.

But to try to put ambiguity in the text, that will not help the parties to reach an agreement. I don't want to continue to have a dialogue or discussion about what this means and that means. This is a waste of time and Israel will continue their project on the ground to change the status of the West Bank.

I hope the meeting with Abu Mazen in Paris and the meeting in March with President [Barack] Obama and Kerry will result in a kind of compromise in the interests of both sides and that international law will be the basis of this understanding.

Jerusalem is another bone of contention in the peace talks, how will this play out?

We cannot accept that the Palestinians have a right to have a capital in Jerusalem. We want East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

We can discuss cooperation between East and West Jerusalem - but sovereignty of East Jerusalem is the Palestinians, because it's part of the occupied territories in 1967.

There is no alternative, this is the Palestinian position. Without this there will be no agreement - I am telling you; this is the key of the agreement.

John Kerry proposed on the basis of the 1967 borders and any changes such as the settlements, which happened on the ground should be taken into consideration. This is also ambiguous that no one can really agree over what changes have happened on the ground. This is occupied territory, all the changes should be seen as not acceptable.

What is your position on Israel's call for security in the Jordan Valley?

The new thing is Israel wants to stay in the Jordan Valley.

In the Stockholm negotiations I was a negotiator and we reached an understanding that the eastern borders of Palestine would be the Jordan Valley.

Now they want Israeli soldiers present in the Jordan Valley and they are talking about the passages and settlements in the Jordan Valley. This will not help. The Israelis are exaggerating the needs of security. We have said we are willing to cooperate but not at the cost of sovereignty of the Palestinian state. Unfortunately, more security means more land from the Palestinians.

Why did talks break down last year?

Since November 5 there have been no negotiations directly between the parties because it was not possible to reach an understanding, to see any kind of progress that would help continue the negotiations. Therefore talks between the Israelis and Palestinians directly were frozen up until this time. There was a lack of trust and there is unlikely to be face-to-face meetings in the near future.

Ahmed Qureia was Palestinian Prime Minister from 2003-2006. He is currently an executive member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

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