United Nations: The next 10 days will be key
for the future of the Middle East peace talks, a Palestinian
spokesman has told a news agency as negotiators sought ways to end a standoff over Jewish settlements.
"The next 10 days will be decisive and determine the fate
of the direct negotiations with Israel," Palestinian president
Mahmud Abbas`s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said yesterday.
"There is a very large international effort made to
overcome the obstacles in the way of direct negotiations. In
particular, the obstacle of the settlements," he said.
The dispute over the settlements has threatened to
undermine the fledgling efforts by the United States to revive
the Middle East peace talks after their official launch in
Washington last month following a nearly two-year hiatus.
The Palestinians have repeatedly demanded that Israel
extend a 10-month freeze on settlement construction in the
occupied West Bank which expires this weekend in order for the
talks to continue.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far
refused to extend the partial ban despite the urging of US
President Barack Obama. He has hinted, however, he would
confine building to major settlement blocs.
Rudeina stressed that there was still no breakthrough on
the thorny issue that has always marred peace talks in the
Abbas and senior Israeli officials, including Defence
Minister Ehud Barak, are in the United States for talks on the
Abbas said after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel
that "the world must understand our need to halt settlement
Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon told AFP
that the two sides should find a "middle of the road"
solution, but that ultimately the future of the settlements
will be decided by the borders of the future Palestinian
The deadline for the end of the freeze is widely accepted
as September 26, 10 months and a day after the original
cabinet decision expires. But a military order regarding the
moratorium states will only close on October 1.
Palestinian officials have said that US mediators have
suggested a three-month extension of the settlement
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell said last week that
talks between Israelis and Palestinians had made "progress" on
the settlements issue.