Palestinians will never recognize Israel as the "Jewish state," president Mahmud Abbas said Saturday, as his leadership convened to chart a course of action after Israel halted peace talks.
"In 1993 we recognized Israel," Abbas told members of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council, adding that the Palestinians should not be forced to go a step further and recognize Israel's religious identity, according to AFP.
Israel had made recognition of it as a "Jewish state" a key demand in peace talks, which it withdrew from after Abbas's PLO on Wednesday signed a reconciliation deal with the Hamas movement, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist.
PA still open to restarting talks
However, Abbas said on Saturday he was still ready to extend stalled peace talks with Israel, as long as it met his long-standing demands to free prisoners and halt building on occupied land.
Abbas, for the first time since the suspension of talks, said he was still open to restarting the talks and pushing on beyond the deadline. There was no immediate response from Israeli negotiators, Reuters reported.
"How can we restart the talks? There's no obstacle to us restarting the talks, but the 30 prisoners need to be released," Abbas told the meeting in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
"On the table we will present our map, for 3 months we'll discuss our map. In that period, until the map is agreed upon, all settlement activity must cease completely," he told the officials, who were gathered for a two-day conference to assess the Palestinian strategy to achieve statehood.
Talks veered toward collapse after Israel failed to release a final group of Palestinian prisoners it had pledged to free in March, and after Abbas signed several international treaties - a move that Israel said was a unilateral move towards statehood.
Palestinians accused Israel of not focusing enough during the last nine months of negotiations on drawing future borders between Israel and the future state of Palestine, and they denounced the expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land.
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