[QODLink]
Middle East
Abbas gives peace talks four months
The Palestinian president says "proximity talks" with Israel will last four months.
Last Modified: 05 May 2010 14:10 GMT
Abbas says he will consult with the Arab League at the end of the four-month timeframe [AFP]

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has said that "proximity talks" with the Israeli government won't last longer than four months.

Abbas told reporters in Jordan on Wednesday that the talks must focus on "core issues", including the final borders of the Palestinian state.

Speaking after meeting Jordan's King Abdullah in the capital Amman, Abbas also said he would consult the Arab League for advice at the end of the four-month period.

The Palestinian president's remarks came as George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, returned to the region to begin brokering the indirect talks.

Settlement freeze

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, announced a 10-month settlement freeze in the West Bank in November. Abbas' timetable for proximity talks will roughly coincide with the end of that freeze.

Israeli officials have said repeatedly that they won't approve another halt in construction, regardless of what happens during negotiations.

Abbas's comments, coupled with his earlier assertion that the Luban Al Sharqiya mosque fire"threatens" the talks, add to a general sense of pessimism even before the dialogue gets underway.

Negotiations had been expected to start on Wednesday, but Israeli and Palestinian officials say they will not formally start until Saturday, after a meeting of the PLO's executive committee.

Dan Meridor, Israel's deputy prime minster, told the Jerusalem Post this weekthat the talks will not yield any results, and that he expects the Palestinian Authority to avoid "tough decisions" on questions like the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

'Preparing for failure'

Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, a senior member of the Israeli army's military intelligence branch, told Israel's parliament on Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority is "already preparing the ground for the failure" of the talks.

"Although the PA president [Abbas] is interested in an agreement with Israel, his flexibility on the core issues is limited, and we don't see any real attempt at being more flexible on the essential matters," he said.

Ahmed Qureia, a senior Palestinian negotiator, told reporters that the so-called Quartet of Middle East negotiators needed to establish clearer terms for the talks.

"To enhance the chances of success, it is imperative that the international community, through the Quartet, provide clear references for talks, in light of Israeli violations," he said.

The indirect talks are expected to focus first on the question of borders.

David Axelrod, the senior political adviser to US president Barack Obama, said the talks will not initially tackle more contentious issues, such as the status of Jerusalem.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.