BBC News | 8 October 2010 | 21:39 GMT
Arab League foreign ministers have given the US one month to rescue deadlocked Middle East peace talks. At a meeting in Libya, they endorsed a decision by the Palestinian negotiators to stay away unless Israel restored a partial settlement construction freeze. But the ministers said the US had to be given more time to break the impasse.
The direct negotiations, the first in almost two years, resumed in September but later stalled when Israel refused to extend the freeze in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in the Libyan city of Sirte.
Afterwards Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who chaired the meeting, told reporters: "The committee endorses the decision of President Abbas to stop the talks." "It urges the American side to pursue its efforts to prepare adequate grounds and circumstances to resume the peace process and put this peace process back on the right track, including stopping settlements," he added.
The Arab League ministers are now due to meet again in a month’s time to review the situation. The US state department later said: "We appreciate the Arab League’s statement of support for our efforts to create conditions that will allow direct talks to move forward."
BBC News | 29 July 2010 | 15:25 GMT
The Arab League has endorsed direct Palestinian peace talks with the Israelis, but has left the timing to the Palestinians, officials said. The US has been pushing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to restart the direct talks, suspended since 2008. Mr Abbas has demanded a settlement freeze and a return to 1967 borders as a precondition of direct talks. Correspondents say the move by the Arab League makes it likely the talks will resume in the coming months. The Palestinian president is now expected to return to Ramallah and seek endorsement for the direct talks from a meeting of Palestinian factions, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated he wants direct talks to start as soon as possible. In response to the Arab League decision, his office released a statement saying he was "ready to start, already in the next few days, direct and frank talks with the Palestinian Authority".
The Arab League agreed in principle to direct talks with Israel provided the Palestinians saw fit, said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who chaired a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. "Of course, there is agreement, but agreement over the principles of what will be discussed and the manner of the direct negotiations," he said. But the timing of the direct talks was "a matter for the Palestinian side to decide", he said. Mr Netanyahu has said he is ready to discuss all the core issues of the decades-old conflict, and has accused the Palestinians of avoiding direct talks. Mr Abbas wants Israel to agree to a complete halt in settlement construction and to accept a Palestinian state in territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
09:19 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010
The Palestinian Authority has said indirect talks with Israel will be "very difficult" if more homes are built on occupied land as planned. Israel announced the plan for 1,600 more homes in occupied East Jerusalem shortly before a peace process visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said they had "demanded that the Americans help us revoke this order." The indirect talks were to be the first steps in resuming stalled peace talks. Mr Erakat, speaking to the BBC, emphasised that "it is very difficult for us to engage in any negotiations unless the order [to build the homes] is revoked".
President Mahmoud Abbas had notified the Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa and Mr Biden of his difficulties with the talks and settlements, Mr Erakat said. According to Mr Erakat: "He told Moussa, ‘I am waiting for [US Middle East envoy George] Mitchell to come back next week to give us the answer that the [settlements] decision has been cancelled’." Mr Biden has condemned the Israeli move as undermining trust. However, on Thursday he sought to stress US support for the Israeli nation, saying the US had "deep friendship and kinship with this magnificent country". He said the US had "no better friend than Israel". Israel and the Palestinians had earlier agreed to hold indirect "proximity talks" in a bid to restart the peace process, which has been stalled for 17 months.