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Report: Abbas drops demand for settlement freeze under US pressure

Sept. 29, 2009 11:53 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 30, 2009 10:49 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Two key Israeli officials will head to Washington on Wednesday for continued talks leading up to renewed peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, reportedly without the pre-condition of a settlement freeze.

Aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attorney, Yitzhak Molcho, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's chief of staff Michael Herzog will attend the talks with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and senior White House officials, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The article also noted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had dropped the pre-condition of a settlement construction halt under US pressure. In exchange for the pressure for easing Abbas’ demand on settlements, the Israeli daily reported, US President Bacack Obama promised Abbas that the Palestinian viewpoint will be taken into consideration in forming the “framework” for the negotiations.

The same article noted Abbas had significantly weakened his negotiating stance, citing a hand shake between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting with Obama in New York.

The coming talks will continue until 15 October, when Obama instructed Mitchell and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to report to him on progress in the talks, in hopes that a framework for renewed negotiations will be reached by then. Chief Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiator Saeb Erekat will also be in Washington, though it is not clear whether he will participate in the talks.

Next week Mitchell will return to Israel and meet with Netanyahu and Barak.

The Palestinian negotiating team wants to resume negotiation from the point reached in talks with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Netanyahu argues he is not bound by Olmert’s proposals.

According to Haaretz, the Palestinians also want the negotiations to focus on the principle of a solution based on the 1967 borders, while Netanyahu strongly disagrees.

Finally, PA negotiators are reportedly demanding a two-year deadline for the achievement of a permanent agreement, while Israel objects.

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