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Arab League backs indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-02

The Arab League said it would endorse indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians pending a final decision by the Palestinian Authority, the day after US Secretary of State Clinton urged the resumption of the Middle East peace process.

The Arab League on Saturday said it backed indirect peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis, despite what it called a lack of Israeli conviction in the process, a statement said.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told a Cairo news conference that a final decision to resume indirect talks with Israel will be taken by the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee.

He also said that building in the disputed east Jerusalem neighbourhood that first torpedoed earlier planned proximity talks will stop the Palestinians from indirectly negotiating.

"If they build one unit out of the 1,600, we will not go to the talks," Erakat said of Israeli plans to build more settler homes in the holy city.

In March the Palestinians, with Arab backing, reluctantly agreed to indirect US-brokered talks for a period of four months, but those plans collapsed days later when Israel said during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden that it would build 1,600 new settler homes in east Jerusalem.

The Arab League decision to endorse so-called proximity talks was taken by a committee of foreign ministers after "guarantees" by US President Barack Obama in a letter to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

"Despite the lack of conviction of the Israeli side in achieving peace, the committee affirms what was agreed on the 2nd of March 2010 in regards to the time period for the indirect negotiations," the statement said.

It was referring to a decision by Arab foreign ministers in March to back one last round of indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians within a four-month deadline.

But the committee insisted that the indirect talks should "not be immediately succeeded by direct talks," Saturday's statement said.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told a news conference that the time period for indirect talks was two months, adding: "If these negotiations go well, we will extend the period."

The League statement said it reaffirmed that the negotiations must "demand a complete end to settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday she expected the Israelis and Palestinians to begin indirect talks next week.

Israel's March announcement of new settlements for annexed east Jerusalem angered the Arabs and infuriated the United States and the international community.

Date created : 2010-05-01

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