Jerusalem: Israeli and Palestinian officials said they expect to start indirect peace talks within days, following Arab endorsement of a US-brokered plan to end the impasse and US guarantees apparently persuaded the Palestinians to lift their objections.
The decision, which was welcomed by the Spanish EU presidency, would end more than a year without negotiations between the sides and at least one false start at getting them back to talks.
"From the very start we have been in favour of peace talks without preconditions and the objective is to start in the coming days, at the latest next week," Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told public radio.
"It is a positive development. The Arabs also want to break the deadlock," Ayalon added of Saturday`s Arab League decision to back a US plan to mediate indirect talks as a prelude to direct negotiations.
The key guarantee given by Washington to the Palestinians to persuade them to enter indirect talks with Israel was a halt to a controversial plan to build 1,600 new settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem, Arab League official Hisham Yusef said.
"We made a decision on March 02 to support the indirect talks, and then Israel made decisions we objected to. The Americans came back to us and said this will not happen," he said in Cairo.