Palestinians call on Sharon to resume talks

Palestinians call on Sharon to resume talks

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday urged Israel's newly elected prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to resume peace negotiations at the point they ended under the leadership of outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

"The Palestinian leadership calls on the new government in Israel to resume the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations from the point it has reached," the Palestinian Authority said in a statement after a weekly cabinet meeting in Gaza.

It said the talks should be based on the formula of "land for peace and the implementation of international resolutions and international legitimacy and our right to establish a Palestinian independent state with Jerusalem as its capital".

Right-wing Sharon defeated Barak by a landslide in Tuesday's election on a campaign pledge to continue peacemaking.

But he has said he will be a tougher negotiator than Barak and has ruled out many of the concessions on the fate of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements and borders that Barak was reported to have made to the Palestinians in talks that ended in Taba, Egypt, nine days before the election.

Sharon will begin negotiations to set up a governing coalition on Thursday, and has publicly begun courting the centre-left Labour party to join a wide government.

But if the talks fail then in order to set up a government before a late March deadline, the Likud leader will need to align himself with far-right parties who take an even tougher stance on peacemaking than the 72-year-old arch-hawk.

The Palestinian cabinet said Sharon's election was "an internal Israeli matter".

"What we care about regarding every political change in Israel is the Israeli position on the peace process and towards the signed agreements between the Palestinians and Israeli sides and the commitment of the new Israeli government to peace."

Sharon has been coy about setting out his peace plan with the Palestinians, but he has said in the past that he would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state on less than 50 percent of the West Bank.

The Palestinians want to establish a state on all the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel captured from Jordan and Egypt respectively in the 1967 Middle East war.

Barak was reported to have offered the Palestinians more than 90 percent of the West Bank in a series of talks that begun at a peace summit in the United States in July and ended in the Taba negotiations in late January.

Barak was heavily criticised by many Israelis for his handling of the negotiations.

They felt he conceded too much in exchange for too little from the Palestinians and slammed his handling of a Palestinian uprising that erupted in late September after a U.S.-brokered peace summit in July ended in stalemate.

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