Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Path to peace talks 'still blocked'

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to send a delegate to the US to continue lower-level preliminary talks with an Israeli counterpart

The path to formal negotiations with Israel is still blocked despite a US suggestion that the sides are close to returning to the table, a senior Palestinian official has said in another sign of scepticism that peace talks will resume.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said that for actual peace talks to resume, Israel must first accept its pre-1967 war frontier as a baseline and halt settlement building, demands Israel's leader has rejected in the past. The Palestinians seek a state in the lands Israel captured in 1967.

He said that Mr Abbas agreed to send a delegate to Washington to continue lower-level preliminary talks with an Israeli counterpart about the terms for negotiations. The Washington talks are meant to "overcome the obstacles that still stand in the way of launching negotiations," he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced this weekend that an agreement has been reached that establishes the basis for resuming peace talks that collapsed about five years ago.

Gaps remain on three issues Palestinians say need to be settled before talks can begin - the baseline for border talks, the extent of a possible Israeli settlement slowdown and a timetable for releasing long-detained Palestinian prisoners.

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War. Mr Abbas seeks a commitment from Mr Netanyahu that Israel's pre-1967 border will serve as a baseline for negotiations.

Israel has been insisting that that peace talks resume without preconditions and that all issues like settlements and security should be resolved through dialogue.

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