Jerusalem: US-mediated indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians will be a last chance to keep the Middle East peace process alive, the Palestinian chief negotiator said on Monday.
"The relationship has deteriorated to this stage where the US is trying to save this peace process with the last attempt -- by the way, mark my words -- this will be the last attempt in order to see if it can be a tool to make decisions between Palestinians and Israelis," Saeb Erekat told Israel Army Radio.
US envoy George Mitchell planned talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later in the day following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on restarting statehood negotiations.
Both sides have agreed to indirect contacts to revive talks suspended since December 2008, in a boost to President Barack Obama's difficult quest to end decades of conflict.
"Today President Abbas will hand a written response to Senator Mitchell about our acceptance of the proposal of the proximity talks," Erekat said.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation endorsed the indirect talks on Sunday, following Arab League backing last week for four months of negotiations which the Palestinians say should focus on security and borders of a future state.
Abbas had demanded a complete halt to Israeli settlement building as a condition for resuming talks and has rejected as insufficient a limited freeze Netanyahu ordered in November under US pressure.
But the PLO and Arab League decisions gave the Western-backed leader political support for re-engaging with Israel without a total settlement moratorium. Netanyahu has agreed to indirect talks, saying he hoped they would lead to face-to-face negotiations.
First Published: Monday, March 08, 2010, 16:00