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'No talks in any format,' Palestinians insist

Palestinians officials insist that there will set on the table before Israeli starts settlement freeze.

AFP , Thursday 16 Dec 2010
George Mitchell
U.S. Mideast envoy Mitchell (Reuters)
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Views: 635

The Palestinians will not hold any form of negotiations, in any format, with Israel without a complete halt to settlement activity, a senior official said on Thursday.

"There will not be any negotiations with Israel, in any form -- direct, indirect or parallel -- without an end to settlement," said Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of the central committee of Fatah, the secular party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

He remarks, in a phone call interview with AFP, were made a day after diplomats from the Arab League ruled out a resumption of negotiations without a "serious offer" which would ensure their success.

Ahmad called on Washington to officially declare its definition of the Palestinian territories to include all the lands occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

And he urged the Obama administration to state its official position on security and borders.

"We are starting to find that the American position on these issues is confused," he said.

Earlier this week, Washington's Middle East envoy George Mitchell held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to try to find a way to keep the sides engaged in the search for peace.

During the visit, Mitchell proposed six weeks of "parallel" talks, where negotiators would hold separate talks with the Americans in a format which would not be classed as "negotiations", a Palestinian official told AFP on Wednesday.

Asked whether Israel would consider engaging in talks in such a parallel format, an Israeli official told AFP they were "open" to the idea.

"We obviously prefer direct talks with the Palestinians, but because they are steadfast in their refusal to engage directly over the issues ... that is something to which we are open," he said.

Direct peace talks collapsed last week after Washington admitted it had failed to secure Israel's agreement to a new freeze on settlement building -- the Palestinian condition for continuing to negotiate.

US efforts are now trying to find new ways of having both sides engage.

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