Dismissing US contention that Israel has made “unprecedented” concessions on constructions, the Palestinian Authority on Sunday refused to return to the negotiating table without a complete freeze on Jewish settlement activities in West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In a major turnaround, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had hailed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance on settlement constructions in the occupied West Bank as “unprecedented“.

“There can be no excuse for the continuation of settlements, which is really the main obstacle in the way of any credible peace process,” Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas said.

“A settlement freeze and acknowledging the terms of reference is the only way towards peace negotiations.

Settlement is illegitimate and it is not possible to accept any justification for the continuation of the settlement activity or to defend it in the lands occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem,” he asserted.

However, Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday urged Palestinians to give up on the preconditions expressing hopes that they would “get a grip” and return to peace talks.

“The problem is that the Israel refuses to stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Mr. Abbas said at a press meet in Abu Dhabi following his meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday.

Emphasising on the core issue of status of Jerusalem, Mr. Abbas said that he told Ms. Clinton that there would be no new negotiations unless Israel freeze settlement building.

“The question of Jerusalem was at the centre of talks during our meeting,” Mr. Abbas said, adding “peace begins in Jerusalem and without Jerusalem there will be no peace.”

“We’ve done things that have not been done until today. Although while we are taking steps toward negotiations, we have encountered preconditions demanded by the Palestinian side, which were never demanded before,” Mr. Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, blaming the Palestinians for the faltering peace process.

Ms. Clinton had hailed Mr. Netanyahu’s stance on settlement constructions in the occupied West Bank as “unprecedented“.

The surprising statement comes after the United States had previously asked Israel to halt all settlement buildings before negotiations could resume, leading to a major standoff between the two allies.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister here, Ms. Clinton said that there has never been such a precondition.

“It has always been an issue with negotiations,” she said adding, “What the Prime Minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements which he has just described, no new starts for example, is unprecedented in the context of prior to negotiations.”

More In: International | News