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Palestinian Official Criticizes New Call for Talks with Israel

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki (file photo)

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki (file photo)

The Palestinian foreign minister said Saturday a new initiative calling for the resumption of peace talks with Israel is insufficient because it does not include a call for an Israeli settlement construction freeze.

Riyad al-Malki criticized the plan from the Middle East Quartet one day after Palestinians formally launched a bid for United Nations statehood recognition, despite U.S. and Israeli opposition. He also said the Quartet's initiative is incomplete because it does not call for an Israeli withdrawal to the borders that were in place before Israel took control of Palestinian territories in 1967.

The Quartet, which is made up of the U.S., U.N., EU and Russia, has called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks within a month and reach an agreement by next year.

Abbas' UN speech

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Israel "the occupying power" and said its control of Palestinian territories in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is a policy of "colonial settlement occupation."

In a later speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed that peace talks begin immediately and reaffirmed Israeli's stance that peace cannot come through U.N. resolutions.

Local reaction

Palestinians celebrated Saturday while Israelis reacted with a mix of hope and concern over Abbas' request for U.N. statehood recognition.

Arabic language newspapers praised Abbas' speech, saying it had bolstered Palestinian hopes for statehood as well as the his popularity.

But most of the Hebrew language newspapers said the U.N. bid will have little consequence since the Palestinians are not likely to drop their conditions for resuming peace talks which have been on hold for nearly a year.

U.S. President Barack Obama said recently his government would use its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block any resolution recognizing the Palestinians. In his U.N. address, Obama said that the only solution was direct talks between the two sides.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council is set to discuss the Palestinians' statehood application on Monday.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.