PARIS – The Palestinian president said Monday he would wait at least a week before deciding whether to pull out of Mideast peace talks, giving U.S. mediators precious time to broker a compromise following the end of an Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlement construction.
President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the newly launched negotiations if Israel resumes building in the settlements. Palestinians oppose all Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas they claim for a future Palestinian state.
But with the stakes so high, Abbas said during a visit to Paris he would not make any hasty decision on withdrawing. He said he would weigh his options with Palestinian leaders before discussing the matter with the 22-member Arab League next Monday.
"We will not have any quick reactions," he said. "After this chain of meetings, we might publish a position that clears up the position of the Palestinian and Arab people after Israel has refused to freeze settlements."
Abbas on Monday urged the Israeli government to extend the slowdown of settlement construction for three or four months to allow for a discussion of "fundamental issues."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed the slowdown last year to help coax the Palestinians to the negotiating table. But under pressure from pro-settler elements in his governing coalition, Netanyahu has said he will not extend the order, which expired at midnight.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu has left the door open to some sort of compromise. Early Monday, Netanyahu urged the Palestinians to continue negotiations, and his chief negotiator has remained in Washington to work with mediators on reaching a deal.