Abbas hears US `ideas` for reviving peace talks

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday held inconclusive talks with George Mitchell, although the US Middle East envoy raised "ideas" for reviving peace negotiations with Israel.

Updated: Dec 14, 2010, 23:31 PM IST

Ramallah: Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday held inconclusive talks with George Mitchell, although the US Middle East envoy raised "ideas" for reviving peace negotiations with Israel.

Mitchell returned to the region yesterday for the first time
in months on a mission to salvage peace talks between Israel
and the Palestinians a week after Washington admitted that
direct negotiations were off the menu.

Although Israel has welcomed the idea of returning to
so-called "proximity talks" the Palestinians have not yet
agreed to participate, insisting they will not enter any
negotiations while Israel builds settlements on occupied land.

However, following the talks in the West Bank town of
Ramallah, Palestinian officials said Washington`s point man on
the Middle East conflict had raised "ideas" for addressing the
deadlock.

"Mitchell brought some US ideas," said Abbas spokesman
Nabil Abu Rudeina, without going into detail.

"We will wait for the Arab Committee to discuss (them)
and to decide," he said, referring to a meeting of Arab League
foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday which Abbas is due to
attend.

"We will continue discussions with the Arabs to decide
the coming steps," Abu Rudeina said.

Shortly after the Ramallah meeting, Abbas set off
for Cairo, a Palestinian official said.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said the
US ideas were the same as those raised when he met US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington last week.

During the meeting with Mitchell, Abbas had
insisted that all Israeli settlement activity be frozen in the
West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, Erakat said.

"Anyone who talks about comprehensive peace must
stop settlement building and Israeli activities," he said,
referring to the US role of chief broker.

Talks began on September 2 but were suspended three
weeks later with the end of an Israeli moratorium on
settlement building, which the Jewish state has consistently
refused to renew.

Ahead of the Ramallah meeting, a senior Palestinian
source said they had been awaiting the US response to a list
of conditions for a resumption of negotiations with Israel.

"Erakat delivered a letter to Clinton saying that
they want US guarantees and answers before returning to any
negotiations, direct or indirect," he said to a news agency. "We are now awaiting the answer to that letter."

PTI