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Arabs reject direct talks with Israel without written guarantees
Monday, July 19, 2010 04:13:30 PM, Agencies
Amr Moussa says negotiations cannot start until guarantees are given to Palestinians
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Cairo: The head of the Arab League has said that Palestinians cannot move into direct peace talks with Israel unless "written guarantees" are given beforehand.
Amr Mussa, the secretary general of the 22-member pan-Arab organisation, spoke in Cairo as Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, held meetings aimed at breathing new life into the stalled peace process.
Mubarak spent Sunday in talks with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister and George Mitchell, the US envoy to the Middle East peace process.
Israel and the US had hoped they could persuade the Arab League to back a Palestinian return to the negotiating table without preconditions, but after a meeting with Mitchell, Mussa dismissed the idea.
"We cannot automatically move from one negotiation to another without written guarantees," Mussa, whose organisation backed indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians in May, said.
'Resuming direct talks'
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, said after the meetings that no breakthrough had been achieved.
"We are still hopeful that we can bridge this gap. The gap between the needs for security for Israel and the borders for the Palestinians," he said.
Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Egypt, said that it looked as though the Palestinians would not be tempted back to negotiations without specific guarantees on crucial issues such as borders, settlements and security assistance.
"So far the indications are that not enough progress has been made to warrant moving from proximity talks to direct talks," he said.
In an interview with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad on Saturday, Abbas laid out a number of conditions for negotiations with Israel. He said he would resume direct talks if Israel agreed to the borders prior to the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for a Palestinian state.
He also requested an international force deployed along the border to protect the Palestinian state.
"If they agree to that, we will consider that acceptable progress, and we will move to direct negotiations," Abbas told the newspaper.
Abbas made no mention of requiring Israel to freeze settlement growth, which has long been a precondition for direct talks. The 10-month suspension of new settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, announced last year by Netanyahu, will end in September.
Yasser Abd Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, told Al Jazeera he wants the United States to clarify its position on several issues, including borders, before resuming direct talks.
'PA's refusal of talks'
Immediately after the Obama Administration proposed the direct talks and Israeli Prime Minister called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) had rejected the proposal.
“We reject the call,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
Erekat told the Voice of Palestine radio that “The era in which we held negotiations while Israel continued its unilateral procedures away from the references of peace no longer exists and has gone forever.”
“The key to direct talks is in the hand of Prime Minister Netanyahu,” said Erekat. “The minute he announces a (total) settlement freeze, the minute he announces the resumption of final status (talks) where we left them in December 2008, we will have direct talks.”
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