Settlements, Jerusalem holding up direct talks: Palestinians

The Palestinian leadership said on Saturday it wants "clarity" regarding the US position on Israeli settlements and Jerusalem before moving to direct peace talks.

Updated: Jul 17, 2010, 22:13 PM IST

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories): The
Palestinian leadership said on Saturday it wants "clarity" regarding
the US position on Israeli settlements and Jerusalem before
moving to direct peace talks.

"Until now there is no clarity in the (US) position on a
number of issues, especially those related to moving into
final status talks," senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed
Rabbo told reporters in the West Bank.

He spoke after a three-hour meeting between visiting US
Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Palestinian president
Mahmud Abbas, part of a sixth round of indirect talks with
Israel.

"The three-hour meeting between Abbas and Mitchell was
important but there are several issues, most important among
them the settlements and the situation in Jerusalem, that need
more clarity," Abed Rabbo said.

The Palestinians have demanded a complete freeze of
Israeli settlements ahead of any face-to-face peace talks and
have accused Israel of undermining the process by approving
new settler homes in mostly Arab east Jerusalem, which
the Palestinians view as their capital.

Israel occupied the eastern half of the city in 1967
along with the West Bank and annexed it in a move not
recognised by the international community, declaring the
entire city its "eternal, undivided capital."

As with previous visits, Mitchell declined to discuss the
details of the talks, saying only that it was a "very
productive" meeting and that US President Barack Obama
remained committed to a two-state peace deal.

Earlier this month, during a visit to Washington by
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said he hoped
to see direct talks begin before a partial moratorium on West
Bank settlements ends in September.

But Abed Rabbo insisted "the timing is not as important
as the foundation of the peace process."

The Palestinians reluctantly agreed to launch indirect
peace talks in May after suspending the last round of direct
negotiations during the 2008-2009 Gaza war.

PTI