The Palestinian President has repeated his insistence that Israel must end all settlement building before he will consider rejoining peace talks.
Mahmoud Abbas was speaking at a West Bank rally to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of his predecessor as Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. His death triggered a violent power struggle within Palestinian ranks, which saw Hamas seize power in Gaza, with Abbas’ Fatah faction confined to the West Bank. Abbas has refused to stand for re-election in January, a decision which leaves the Palestinians divided and the future deeply uncertain. “We have always said that we want reconciliation, we want reconciliation because it is important for us that the people are united,” he said. “We are not happy with this split, but we do not deny the rights of others.” Arafat still casts a long shadow: he could be seen as the glue which held the Palestinian people together. The exact cause of his death has never been released – his wife refused an autopsy – and it remains to be seen if his dream of a Palestinian homeland died with him.