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Fatah official says return to talks subject to conditions

July 22, 2013 10:38 A.M. (Updated: July 23, 2013 7:46 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath said Sunday that a return to direct negotiations is subject to several conditions.

"We are waiting. Returning back to negotiations depends on two steps we asked the American side to agree on," the official told Ma'an.

"If they agree, we will go to the next step which is preliminary negotiations in Washington to discuss the rules and the terms of direct negotiations."

"We will not go back to negotiations unless we get what we asked for," Shaath said, without providing further details.

The EU's recent position on Israeli settlements contributed to the return to negotiations and had a positive impact on the US position, Shaath added.

President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly stressed that his demands of a freeze to Israeli settlement building on occupied land and release of prisoners held by Israel must be met before talks can resume.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz on Saturday announced that there would be the release a "limited" number of Palestinian prisoners as a "gesture" for the peace talks.

Israeli media have said that while there will be no formal declaration of a settlement freeze, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will quietly halt building for the time being.

High-ranking Israeli officials have openly rebuffed both conditions, with Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, a member of Netanyahu's own Likud party, telling AFP: "I am against a Palestinian state."

Commenting on the proposed prisoner release, an editorial in Israeli daily Maariv said "veteran terrorists will go home."
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