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Dahlan: No direct talks until issues addressed

July 15, 2010 7:48 P.M. (Updated: July 16, 2010 3:25 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Palestinians will not enter direct talks until Israel addresses issues raised in proximity talks, Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan said Thursday.

Speaking to Ma’an Radio, Dahlan affirmed news reports that US President Barack Obama had agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pressure the Palestinian side into direct talks, but said a specific date or agenda had not been set.

Face-to-face Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were broken off in December 2008 when Israel launched its war on Gaza. US- initiated proximity talks began in May, and have seen US peace envoy George Mitchell shuttle between negotiators relaying positions in five rounds of indirect talks.

Dahlan explained that President Mahmoud Abbas presented a plan to Mitchell addressing the key Palestinian issues of borders and security. He noted that Abbas is still awaiting an Israeli response to his proposal, and expressed disappointment that Obama failed to get a response from Netanyahu in their recent meeting in Washington.

The Fatah official anticipated that Mitchell, due in Ramallah Saturday, will push Abbas to proceed to direct talks, but said that Abbas will ask for an Israeli response to Palestinian issues before agreeing to direct talks, which would be “a lie of negotiations.”

Regarding the issue of national unity, Dahlan said Fatah’s rival faction, Hamas, was strategically delaying negotiations, in order that Fatah would pay the political price of negotiations with Netanyahu.

Dahlan was Fatah's security chief in the Gaza before Hamas took full control of the Strip in 2007 following their victory in parliamentary elections the previous year. A 2008 exposé in the magazine Vanity Fair linked Dahlan to a US-backed attempt to oust Hamas from power.

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