Abbas mulls peace talks; expects U.S. answers soon
TOKYO (Reuters) - Palestinian leaders have not set specific terms on which they would accept a U.S. offer to mediate indirect peace talks with Israel, and expect clarification on such talks in a week, President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday.
The United States has proposed circumventing a dispute preventing the resumption of talks, stalled for more than a year since a war in Gaza, by reconvening in the form of "proximity talks" on an indirect basis, under closer U.S. mediation.
Israel has agreed to the formula but Abbas has said he will announce a decision after hearing answers to some questions he has put to Washington.
"The Palestinian side has not set any conditions in particular," said Abbas, speaking to reporters in Japan through an interpreter, when he asked under what conditions he would accept the U.S. offer on the proximity talks.
Speaking at a seminar in Tokyo, Abbas added that his government was keeping the door open to the U.S. proposal, but stressed that he was still waiting to hear from Washington.
Abbas said that he expected U.S. Middle East special envoy George Mitchell to get back to him with further clarification about the talks a week from now. After that, his government could consult with other Arab leaders and make a decision, he added.
His comments came a day after Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, visiting Tokyo with Abbas, said the proximity talks should focus on border issues and their timeframe should be limited to a maximum of three to four months.
Peace talks were halted more than a year ago over the war in the Gaza Strip and have not resumed, due largely to a Palestinian demand that Israel first impose a complete freeze on building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Israel's refusal to do so.
Abbas has rejected a limited, 10-month construction freeze ordered by Israel in November as insufficient, particularly for excluding Jerusalem.
(Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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