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.
Reuters | Sun Jul 18, 2010 | 9:45pm IST
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Palestinian and Israeli leaders and the U.S. peace envoy on Sunday with a return to direct talks on the agenda, but a breakthrough still seemed distant. Egypt has long played a mediating role in Middle East politics, but it is unusual for Cairo to host different leaders on the same day. Shuttle diplomacy has been the preferred way of operating. None of the visitors saw the others, instead having back-to-back talks with Mubarak, who was flanked by his foreign minister and top intelligence officer. U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who has shuttled between the main players since a four-month window for indirect talks was agreed in May, held an hour-long meeting, then hurriedly left the presidency without briefing reporters. Minutes after Mitchell’s convoy of tinted-window white cars rolled out, a convoy of black cars rolled in, escorting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Mitchell met on Saturday in Ramallah. Half an hour later Abbas was gone, again without speaking to reporters. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived soon after Abbas’ departure. The Egyptian state news agency MENA reported that Mubarak’s talks with all three men focused on "efforts to create the conditions necessary to advance the peace process and achieve a two-state solution". It did not elaborate.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters after the meetings that direct talks were not possible yet, but there was still time. "We are still hopeful that we can bridge this gap. The gap between the needs for security for Israel and the borders for the Palestinians," he said. "They (the Israelis) claim that they are determined to offer the Palestinians a good deal," he said, adding that Egypt was encouraging the United States to keep pushing for face-to-face talks. In a statement after the talks, Netanyahu said: "President Mubarak represents the aspiration for widening the cycle of peace and preserving the stability and security of the peoples of the region. I again found in him a key partner in achieving those important goals."
Reuters | Sat Jul 17, 2010 | 3:14pm IST
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must agree to the idea of a third party guarding the borders of a future Palestinian state before direct peace talks can begin. In an interview published on Saturday, Abbas said Israel must also agree in principle to an equitable land swap that would compensate the Palestinians for West Bank land absorbed by Jewish settlements in any peace deal. The remarks were the clearest statement yet of what Abbas wants from Israel before he agrees to move to face-to-face negotiations that Washington wants the sides to begin. Abbas met U.S. Middle peace envoy George Mitchell on Saturday in Ramallah. Mitchell, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, is mediating indirect peace talks under way for two months. The talks are about halfway through their agreed four-month lifetime. They are set to conclude in September, around the same time as a partial freeze that Netanyahu ordered last November on Israeli settlement building on occupied West Bank territory.
Israel says the current "proximity talks" are wasting time. Netanyahu says he is ready to begin direct talks with Abbas right away. But the Palestinian president is wary of talking to an Israeli leader he believes is not willing to make an offer the Palestinians could accept. Speaking to the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad, Abbas said he wanted Israel to agree "in principle" to the idea that a third party take on a security role in a future Palestinian state to be founded on land occupied by Israel in a 1967 war. "Now what is required from Israel is for it to say that these ideas are, in principle, acceptable," he said. "That means: do they accept that the land is the 1967 borders and that there be, in the Palestinian land, a third party. If they agree to that, this is what we would consider the progress that we want and that would make us go to direct negotiations," he said. The Palestinians aim to establish their state in
AP | Yahoo | 11/07/2010 | 03:18 pm
The Palestinian president, who is under U.S. pressure to resume direct talks with Israel, said that doing so under current circumstances would be pointless. The remarks by Mahmoud Abbas underline his determination not to return to the table unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commits to an internationally mandated settlement freeze and agrees to pick up talks where they left off under the Israeli leader’s predecessor in Dec. 2008. Netanyahu hasn’t agreed to either demand, and has so far curbed but not frozen settlement activity. He insists negotiations should be held without any preconditions. President Barack Obama called Abbas last week, following the U.S. president’s meeting with Netanyahu. The White House said Obama and Abbas talked about ways to revive direct talks soon.
"We have presented our vision and thoughts and said that if progress is made, we will move to direct talks, but that if no progress is made, it (direct negotiations) will be futile," Abbas said in a speech late Saturday. "If they (the Israelis) say `come and let’s start negotiations from zero,’ that is futile and pointless," Abbas added. The Palestinians say they that after 17 years of intermittent talks, they don’t want to start all over again, especially with an Israeli leader who has retreated from positions presented by his predecessors. In the absence of direct talks, a U.S. envoy has been shuttling between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent weeks. Abbas’ aide Yasser Abed Rabbo told Palestinian radio Sunday that the Palestinians don’t want to enter open-ended negotiations with Israel. "There must be a … timetable, a framework for these negotiations," he said. "We will not enter new negotiations that could take more than 10 years."