PLO leader: U.S. envoy has not participated in peace talks


American negotiators have not participated in the renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a Palestinian leader said.

“The Americans did not participate in any negotiating session so far in spite of assurances that they will play a direct role,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Thursday. Rabbo made his statements to the Voice of Palestine radio, the WAFA Palestinian news agency reported.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met twice in the past two weeks in Jerusalem. The negotiations have been under a near-total news blackout at the request of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

U.S. Mideast peace envoy Martin Indyk, who was appointed to the post by Kerry last month, was in Jerusalem this week during the talks but reportedly did not attend the sessions.

Rabbo blamed Israel for the absence of Indyk, saying “this is one sign of how and where the talks are heading if the U.S. is not able now to assert itself in the peace process.”

Rabbo also said that Israel’s continued construction in the settlements could damage the peace process, echoing remarks made the previous day by PLO official Hanan Ashrawi during a tour with reporters of eastern Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority changes name to State of Palestine


The Palestinian Authority officially changed its name to the State of Palestine.

President Mahmoud Abbas decreed Friday that the name would be changed to reflect the recent upgrade of the Palestinians' status at the United Nations, the Associated Press reported

Palestinian stamps, signs and letterheads will be changed to reflect his decision, according to Wafa, the Palestinian news agency.

In November, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution upgrading Palestine's status to “non-member observer state.” In December, U.N. organizations began referring to Palestinian officials as representatives of the State of Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority was created in 1994 as part the Oslo peace accords and was intended to be the foundation of a fully-fledged Palestinian state. The outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000 brought talks with Israel to a halt and its status has remained the same since.

In 2005, Fatah, a political faction within the Palestinian Authority associated with Abbas and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was ousted from the Gaza Strip by rival Hamas. While the Palestinian Authority continues to claim sovereignty over the coastal territory from its seat in Ramallah, the Fatah-led organization has little real authority there.