Jerusalem: Israel`s Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday
convened his inner council to discuss US ideas on the peace
process, but the Palestinians insisted there would be no talks
while settlements continued.
There was no immediate word on the content of Netanyahu`s
talks with his Forum of Seven, although a government official
confirmed that they had met.
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell earlier this week
held two days of talks with prime minister Netanyahu and
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to try to find a way to
keep the sides engaged in the search for peace.
As Israel mulled US plans for advancing the negotiations,
a senior Palestinian official insisted they would not hold any
form of negotiations, in any format, with Israel without a
complete halt to settlement activity.
"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 Abbas.
His remarks came a day after Arab diplomats ruled out
renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without a "serious
offer" which would ensure their success.
They also decided to approach the UN Security Council to
seek a resolution against Israel`s ongoing settlement
Attempts to revive 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.
The US focus is now on new ideas, with Mitchell proposing
six weeks of "parallel" talks in which negotiators would hold
separate talks with the Americans in a format which would not
be classed as "negotiations," a Palestinian official told AFP
The Israeli official said that the government was "open"
to the concept.
"We obviously prefer direct talks with the Palestinians,"
he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"But because they are steadfast in their refusal to
engage directly, then the idea of having two parallel tracks
to deal with some of the issues and hopefully in the future
have those two tracks converged into direct talks, we`re open
to that idea."
Israeli daily Maariv said that today`s ministerial
meeting would include discussion of the possibility of
widespread international recognition of an independent