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Fatah official: No negotiations in London

Feb. 1, 2013 7:12 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 9, 2013 1:39 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Arabic-language newspaper reported Friday that the UK was hosting talks between Palestinians and Israeli officials to discuss possible ways of resuming the peace process.

Al-Quds al-Arabi quoted unidentified Palestinian sources as saying that the Israeli side was headed by Yossi Belin, one of the masterminds of the Oslo Accords, while the Palestinian side was headed by Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Ishtayya. The report added that Nabil Shaath was expected at the conference but did not attend.

But Muhammad Ishtayya said the conference held at the Wilton Park Resort in southern England only discussed the Middle East crisis, and there were no secret negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Speaking to Ma’an from London, Ishtayya said "the conference was organized by the government of Switzerland and was attended by representatives of European, American and Arab countries including Egypt and Morocco. The conveners addressed the Middle East crisis in general including the Palestinian crisis."

The part about Palestine, Ishtayya said, was only evaluative to try and learn why peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians had failed.

He said there were neither secret nor public negotiations in Wilton Park between the Palestinians and Israel. There is no European initiative to resume negotiations, he added. "It was just a conference during which negotiations were not addressed, neither did the conveners give any official recommendations."

The Palestinian dignitaries who joined the conference, according to Ishtayya, were former minister of economy Mazin Sunuqrot, Palestinian ambassador to the UK Manuel Hasasian and former ambassador to Russia Afif Safiya.
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