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Home demolitions hurt peace talks: Palestinians

The Palestinians have warned a US envoy that it will be difficult to revive peace talks if Washington cannot stop Israel from demolishing Arab homes.

Ramallah: The Palestinians have warned
a US envoy that it will be difficult to revive peace talks if
Washington cannot stop Israel from demolishing Arab homes or
building for Jews in east Jerusalem, their chief negotiator
said on Friday.

White House envoy George Mitchell is expected to
try to persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a
meeting tomorrow to agree to direct negotiations with Israel.

Abbas aides say they expect Mitchell to tell the
Palestinian president what Israel is prepared to do to make
that happen.

Abbas has said he won`t return to the negotiating
table unless Israel freezes all settlement construction in the
West Bank and east Jerusalem, war-won territories the
Palestinians want for their state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has
curbed construction in the West Bank, but refuses to do so in
east Jerusalem. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as a
future capital.

Abbas also wants Israeli assurances that talks will
pick up where they broke off under Netanyahu`s predecessor in
December 2008.

Netanyahu has declined to make such a commitment.
Mitchell met with Netanyahu today, but government
spokesman Mark Regev would not comment on those talks.

Earlier this week, Israel demolished six Arab-owned
buildings in east Jerusalem, including three homes, saying
they were built without permits.

Palestinian residents of Jerusalem say it is
difficult to obtain permits because of discriminatory zoning
practices. The demolitions were the first since October, and
drew international criticism, including from the US.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said he
warned Mitchell in a letter that the demolitions, along with
Israeli plans to build more houses for Jews in east Jerusalem,
threaten peace prospects.

"If the United States cannot stop these measures,
then the Israeli practices will lead to undermining all
efforts that have been exerted to revive the peace process,"
Erekat said he wrote to Mitchell.

However, Abbas will likely find himself under
intense US pressure to return to direct negotiations, even if
all of his demands are not met. Erekat said Arab League
foreign ministers would discuss the matter July 29, followed
by a meeting of the PLO`s top decision-making body.


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