White House: Abbas to Agree to Direct Talks

Published: August 14th 2010
in News » Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House with President Obama.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is set to announce within days that the PA has agreed to direct peace talks with Israel, a senior level White House official told Haaretz.


The official said that several minor points still need to be worked out between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the timeframe for negotiations can be finalized.


On Wednesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres told AFP that Israeli wanted to open direct talks with the Palestinians as "early as possible."


"For the time being, the three parties -- the US, the Palestinians and Israel -- are leading proximity talks. But we have to go from proximity talks to direct talks," Peres said. He was in Sofia, Bulgaria for a meeting with Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov.


"I hope it will happen as early as possible and as soon as I hope," Peres added. At the time, he said that he saw "positive advancements" that were pointing toward direct talks.


In the last few days, international heads of state have been encouraging Abbas to state his intentions to restart direct negotiations.


Haaretz cited Washington sources who are saying that the Palestinians will probably make an announcement declaring support for direct negotiations as early as Monday. The Quartet Nations will make their own statement to the same effect that will call for a two-state solution with the 1967 borders as a basis. They will give a timetable of one to two years for the establishment of a Palestinian state.


However, Israeli officials are trying to downplay the potential announcement, in order to shore up the country's position with regard to preconditions. "Israel is not willing to agree to any preconditions from the back door via a Quartet announcement that will serve as a basis for the negotiations," a senior Jerusalem official was quoted as saying.


"As far as we know, the negotiations may begin in two days, but also in two weeks,” the official added.


A ceremony to launch the direct talks will likely take place shortly after the Quarter announcement takes place.


The White House official would not speculate on whether U.S. President Barack Obama will attend the inauguration ceremony or if Israelis and Palestinians officials will attend such an event in Washington DC.


The Israeli official said that the ceremony will likely be in Egypt hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in attendance.


Since May, Israelis and Palestinians have been involved in indirect proxy negotiations using U.S. Mideast Envoy George Mitchell as a go-between. Direct negotiations have been stalled since Israel began a military operation against Hamas in December 2007.


Abbas has so far said that he will only agree to restart direct talks if Israel agrees to a complete freeze of settlement building in the West Bank.


In Bulgaria, Peres said that Netanyahu "himself declared that he is for a two-state solution – a Palestinian State alongside the Israeli State, living in peace and respect and enabling each of us to become neighbours instead of continuing to be part of the conflict."


A high-ranking Fatah member, Azam al-Ahmed, travelling with Abbas to Qatar, stated on Saturday that the PA will make an announcement on Sunday or Monday regarding restarting peace negotiations.


Haaretz reported that Palestinian sources stated that “real progress” was made last week during a meeting between Abbas and Mitchell.


Abbas is insistent that any direct talks be set up with a definite agenda for the ideas to be discussed. He suggested that the Quartet framework from March – the establishment of a Palestinian state, an end to settlement construction along with no unilateral measures taken by either side – be used as a framework for negotiations.

Related articles: (Abbas, PA, direct talks, indirect talks, Peres, Netanyahu, George Mitchell, settlement freeze)

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