Erekat denies date set for direct talks

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat denied reports on Saturday that direct talks will resume after the holy month of Ramadan, which ends in September.

“I say that right now the issue is not the date for direct talks,” Erekat told Ma’an Radio Network. “We want to resume talks but the key is in the hands of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Erekat explained that face-to-face talks will resume as soon as Netanyahu agrees to stop settlement construction, including in occupied East Jerusalem, outlines reference terms for negotiations, and approves borders for the two states.

The Israeli propaganda machine, he said, is working to hold talks without agreeing terms, adding that 99 percent of Israeli media reports about resuming talks are false.

The senior official denied that the Egyptian leadership is intervening to be a new mediator in Israeli-Palestinian talks, and said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak informed US mediator George Mitchell that he will not be used to pressure President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas has been under intense US and Israeli pressure to move from indirect proximity talks to direct negotiations with Israel.

Israeli Radio quoted sources close to Abbas as saying the president would resume direct talks after Ramadan, and before the partial freeze on settlement building expires on 26 September, adding that Palestinians are determined to secure an end to settlement building during negotiations.

The sources added that the Arab follow-up committee, which met with Abbas in Cairo last week, will reconvene on 16 September, when the US may present its response to the outcome the committee meeting, in which foreign ministers of the Arab League agreed “in principle” to a resumption of direct talks, but with conditions.

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