Israel, Palestinians agree on indirect talks: U.S. envoy

08:58, March 09, 2010      

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The Israeli and Palestinian leaderships have accepted indirect peace talks, said U.S. special envoy George Mitchell on Monday.

"I'm pleased that the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have accepted indirect talks. We've begun to discuss the structure and scope of these talks and I will return to the region next week to continue our discussions," said Mitchell in a statement.

The envoy, in his latest tour to the Middle East, persuaded Israel and the Palestinians to agree on conducting four-month-long indirect talks, in which negotiators from the two sides will hold separate talks with the third party's mediators on the issues of borders and security.

"We hope that these will lead to direct negotiations as soon as possible. We also again encourage the parties, and all concerned, to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks," said Mitchell.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration have been exerting efforts to pressure on the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to resume the talks and had a plan of reaching a permanent peace agreement that leads to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within two years.

The direct talks between Israel and Palestine were stalled in December 2008 when Israel launched a massive military campaign against the Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.

PNA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas insists that the talks would not be resumed until the Israeli government totally freezes the Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, while the Israeli side accuses the PNA of setting precondition for the peace talks and claims to ensure the "natural growth" of the Jewish settlements.

At least 450,000 Israelis live in more than 100 settlements in the West Bank.

Source: Xinhua
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