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Middle East
Israel and Palestinians hold talks
Negotiator says agreement reached to begin writing parts of peace accord.
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2008 12:28 GMT
Qureia said the two sides were still focused on reaching a 'comprehensive agreement' [EPA]
An agreement has been reached to start drafting parts of a proposed peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a senior Palestinian negotiator.
 
Ahmed Qureia announced on Saturday that the two sides had agreed during a meeting held the previous evening "to begin writing the positions".
At the same time, he criticised Israel for not easing Palestinian movement in the West Bank.
 
Qureia's statements came as the office of Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said she would be heading to the region next week in an attempt to push negotiations forward.
The negotiating teams of Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, have been holding regular meetings since the talks were formally relaunched under US mediation in November last year in the US city of Annapolis.
 
Little progress
 
The two sides have remained silent about the specifics of the ongoing discussions, which have shown little sign of progress towards their stated goal of striking a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.

Qureia said the two sides were still focused on reaching the "comprehensive agreement" to end the conflict, as opposed to a "declaration of principles" as the Israelis have called for in the past.

"The maps have been opened, so that there has been discussion about the issues, not discussion for its own sake," he said.

Qureia did not say what issue the two sides would start with, but said that if the two sides reach agreement on any issue, then they will draft a single provision.

Continued Israeli settlement construction
has hindered peace talks [EPA]
If not, they will lay out on paper their differing views, he said.

Qureia said that Israel had not done enough to ease the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, despite a pledge to reduce barriers to movement in the area as a part of peace talks.

"The checkpoints should have been removed after the Annapolis conference," he said.

Qureia confirmed that Israeli negotiators had offered the Palestinians land in exchange for territory where major West Bank settlements exist, but said that was "unacceptable".

Continued Israeli settlement construction and Israeli security concerns have clouded negotiations begun at Annapolis.

A UN report in May said that the number of Israeli obstacles in the West Bank increased from 566 in September to 607 in April.

Talks to continue

Qureia said the talks will continue despite a corruption investigation into Olmert that has threatened to unseat the prime minister.

"As far as we are concerned, the negotiations will continue regardless of what happens internally in Israel and I have heard from the Israelis that they also want to continue the negotiations," he said.

Qureia said that Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, who is strongly favoured to succeed Olmert and who has been leading the Israeli negotiating team, has backed the continuation of talks.

Israeli government officials would not comment.

Should Israel find itself going to early elections, polls show Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes major territorial concessions to the Palestinians, becoming Israel's next prime minister.

Commenting on the proposed peace pact, Avigdor Lieberman, an Israeli politician and leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, recently told the daily Yediot Ahronot: "Such a document should be seen as an attempt at a political coup aimed at retaining power."

Source:
Agencies
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