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Israel-Palestinian direct talks may restart: Abbas
RAMALLAH, West Bank |
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday he might end an impasse in peace talks with Israel and resume direct talks with the Jewish State for the first time in almost two years.
Abbas told reporters U.S. President Barack Obama's administration and many world leaders were putting pressure on him to agree to direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said he is ready to begin immediately.
Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, who is scheduled to see Abbas and Netanyahu on Tuesday, has conducted five rounds of indirect talks between the two men and their aides since May. Obama has said he wants the direct talks to begin by September.
"Now we are facing these pressures. Until now, we did not agree. We may face other pressures that we cannot endure. If that happens, I will study this thing with the leadership ... and take the appropriate decision," Abbas told reporters in a briefing at his office in Ramallah.
Abbas also said if the quartet of the Middle East mediators -- the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- called on Israel to halt settlement activities and reach an agreement in 24 months, then "I will immediately go to direct talks because it includes everything I am asking for."
At a meeting in Moscow in March the quartet presented a package of measures with the aim of producing an agreement within two years to end Israeli occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state.
Abbas has sought progress in indirect talks before any move to direct negotiations but has spoken of unprecedented international pressure to convince him to resume direct talks with Israel.
"No one can endure the pressure that is being put on us," he said.
Abbas said that before agreeing to resume direct talks, Israel must agree that the talks must tackle all the territories that it has occupied since capturing them in a 1967 war.
He included Arab East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state, the Jordan Valley, halting settlement activities and agreeing a timeline for the talks.
Netanyahu, who has accused Abbas of wasting time, has said the Palestinians can bring all issues to the table.
Last month, the Arab League's peace process committee approved a move to direct negotiations when Abbas saw fit.
"When we listen to what he (Mitchell) has to say, we will decide," Abbas said.
Direct talks have been suspended since Israel's December 2008-January 2009 Gaza war that it launched to suppress militant rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave. The Islamist group rejects any peace deal with Israel.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta; Editing by Ori Lewis)
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