Cairo: Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Wednesday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him he would not enter indirect talks with Israel, only days after the Palestinian side had agreed to the contacts.
The about-turn puts on hold the US’ efforts to bring together Israel and Palestine in so-called proximity talks. The proposed talks, the Palestinian chief negotiator said this week, were a "last chance" to keep the Middle East peace process alive.
The decision came after Israel announced on Tuesday it would erect 1,600 settler homes in an area of the occupied West Bank it annexed to Jerusalem. Abbas had only agreed to the talks on condition that Israel imposed a Jewish settlement freeze.
"The Palestinian president decided he will not enter into those negotiations now ... the Palestinian side is not ready to negotiate under the present circumstances," Moussa told a news conference following an urgent meeting of Arab delegates at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.
He said Abbas had conveyed the decision to him by phone.
"The talks have already stopped," Moussa said.
No immediate comment was available from Israeli or Palestinian officials.
US Vice President Joe Biden publicly scolded Israel on Wednesday over the settlement plan, saying it was undermining peace efforts after Palestinians agreed to US-mediated talks.
First Published: Thursday, March 11, 2010, 11:02