Abbas tells Mitchell PNA would move to direct negotiations if agreement is reached over security, borders

Extraordinary OIC conference calls for trying Israeli war criminals

Netanyahu rules out apology to Turkey

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has denied a breakthrough in indirect negotiations with Israel, saying the US-brokered talks have been ineffective so far.

"In fact there is no progress in negotiations, and the situation is still as it was," dpa quoted acting PA Chief Mahmoud Abbas as saying during a stopover in Amman, responding to US reports which had earlier indicated a progress in the ongoing "proximity talks."

The Fatah-led government in Ramallah entered into the indirect talks in April despite strong opposition by rival Hamas movement, Islamic Jihad and even factions within the Palestine Liberation Organization, warning the talks would lead to more Israeli crimes.

The negotiations, mediated by US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, have been seriously affected by Israel's unrelenting settlement expansions and its deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy on May 31.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday urged the Palestinians to move into direct talks with the regime.

But Abbas said that the Palestinian Authority had handed "a written full vision" to the US administration on unresolved issues including East al-Quds (Jerusalem), frontiers and security.

"If Netanyahu acknowledges that these issues are negotiable, this means that progress is being made and we will be moving to direct talks...But if we don't get a reply until September, which represents the deadline set by the Arab follow-up committee, a new meeting (of Arab foreign ministers) will convene to decide the next step," he added.

Abbas also vowed not to give up East al-Quds, which the Palestinians have been demanding as the capital of their future independent Palestinian state.

Israel occupied East al-Quds during the six-day war in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is stalling over the indirect talks with the Palestinians, Abbas charged in remarks published by several Israeli newspapers on Thursday.

"We haven't received from Netanyahu even a single sign that might indicate progress" in the US-backed proximity talks, Abbas was quoted as saying by the Maariv daily.

"He has completely ignored everything we've raised," the paper quoted him as saying in comments made to Israeli journalists from four newspapers who spent the evening at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.

The indirect talks, which began on May 9 and are scheduled to take four months, are regarded as a first step towards renewing direct negotiations which collapsed in December 2008 when Israel launched a devastating 22-day offensive on Gaza.

Abbas said that the core issues being discussed at the talks with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell were borders and security -- issues on which an agreement was crucial if the two sides were to begin direct talks.

"As soon as there is progress we'll shift to direct talks, but up until now we haven't received even a single sign that might indicate progress on those issues," he said.

Later Thursday, Netanyahu responded, saying it was the Palestinian leader who was not eager to talk.

"I would say to Mahmoud Abbas, the best way to show that you are serious about peace is to hold serious, direct negotiations," Netanyahu said, speaking at a US Independence Day celebration at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu said he was ready to meet at any time. "Let's not waste another 15 months before we sit down together," he said, referring to the time since he took office.

Abbas' remarks were reiterated on Thursday during talks in Ramallah with Mitchell, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

"President Abbas told Mitchell there would not be any move to direct negotiations without progress on the questions of security and borders, and in particular, without Israel recognizing the borders of the Palestinian lands it occupied in 1967," Erakat said.

Abbas also insisted Israel put an end to the demolition of Palestinian homes in Arab east Jerusalem and stop its practice of revoking ID cards of those living in the occupied and annexed sector of the Holy City, Erakat said.

Abbas' three-hour interview with the Israeli press, which included dinner, was portrayed in the newspapers as an attempt to appeal directly to the Israeli public in the absence of concrete progress in the negotiations.

"Now I tell you Israelis -- don't miss the opportunity the Arab League has offered you with its peace initiative," he was quoted as saying by the Haaretz daily. "Don't let me lose hope."

The so-called Arab peace initiative, which was presented by Saudi Arabia in 2002, offers Israel full normalization of ties in return for its withdrawal from occupied Arab land and the creation of a Palestinian state.

Abbas also said he had reached a number of significant agreements on borders and security with former premier Ehud Olmert with the two drawing up a number of maps and documents -- all of which had been passed on to Mitchell.

"We agreed in principle to a land swap, one-to-one," he was quoted as saying by Tel Aviv freesheet Israel HaYom, which is considered to be close to the Netanyahu administration.

The Palestinian leader said he and Olmert had agreed that the occupied territories consisted of "East Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley and no-man's land," Maariv wrote.

With regards to the security situation the day after any agreement, Abbas said he had agreed to a third party NATO or UN presence on the ground.

Although Mitchell had passed on all the documentation to Netanyahu's negotiating team, they had still not given any answer, Abbas said.

On the other hand, The OIC secretary general spoke on Saturday about the “suffering” of the people of Gaza, saying Israel had committed “flagrant war crimes.”

Those who committed the crimes must be hauled before international tribunals, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said in his address to the OIC foreign ministerial meeting in Damascus.

Ihsanoglu also said the world should act to force Israel to end its occupation of Arab land, AFP reported.

The 57-member OIC represents 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also criticized Israel, branding it the “major obstacle” to peace in the Middle East and backing the right of resistance to recover the occupied lands.

Bashar al-Assad said the current state of Middle East peacemaking had exposed the “true nature of this aggressive state.”

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and indirect contacts between Israel and Syria have been on ice since Israel's massive offensive against the Gaza Strip in December and January.

“The failure of the peace process is a blatant demonstration that Israel is the major obstacle to peace,” Assad said in an address to a ministerial meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Damascus.

“Our experience with Israel during indirect peace negotiations mediated by Turkey is further proof of this.”

Turkey brokered four rounds of indirect talks between the two foes last year, the first such contacts since previous peace negotiations were broken off in 2000 over the fate of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

But Syria froze the contacts at the turn of the year when Israel launched its 22-day war on Gaza, controlled since June 2007 by the Islamic resistance movement Hamas whose leader Khaled Meshaal lives in Damascus.

“The failure of political methods to recover their legitimate rights gives them the right of resistance,” he said, referring to Syrians and Palestinians whose land is occupied by Israel.

Israel occupied the Golan Heights in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the strategic plateau in 1981, moves not recognized by the international community.

“For decades, Israel was considered a gentle lamb seeking peace in the face of besieging wolves, including the Palestinians, the rightful owners of the land,” Assad said.

“A state built on occupation and the massacre of Palestinians, can it really work for peace?” he asked.

“A state whose successive governments have prevented all solutions and whose current government is one of the most racist, can it be a partner for peace?”

Assad said peace remained Syria's “strategic objective to restore our rights fully, including occupied land,” but underscored what he said was the “large popular support for the forces of resistance in the region.”

Meanwhile, Israel won’t apologize to Turkey for its May 31 raid on an aid flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip in which nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel’s Channel One.

“Israel cannot apologize because Israel’s soldiers tried to defend themselves” against the being “massacred,” Netanyahu said.

The incident has severely strained Israel’s political and military ties with Turkey, once its closest ally in the region.

Turkey is demanding that Israel make a formal apology, pay compensation and agree to an international inquiry. Israel has begun its own civilian and military inquiries into the incident.