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Middle East

Israelis, Palestinians meet amid scepticism

Negotiators agree to intensify meetings, while senior officials say no progress has been made to date.

Last Modified: 07 Oct 2013 15:33
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Netanyahu blamed Palestinians for the continued impasse in a speech on Sunday [Reuters]

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a new round of talks on Monday and agreed to pick up the tempo of their meetings, despite widespread scepticism that they will reach a deal.

The two sides resumed direct talks in late July, after three years of stalemate. Negotiators have said little in public about their meetings, but so far there have been no signs of progress.

The talks came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held a rare meeting with a group of Israeli parliamentarians on Monday, warning that this could be the last chance to reach a deal.

A senior Palestinian official told the Reuters news agency that the talks were intensifying, with the negotiating teams agreeing to meet more regularly, and for up to eight hours a day.

"As the Americans requested, we are upping the tempo of the discussions," the official said. "So far we have achieved nothing."

For the last two months, the two sides met once or twice a week, sometimes only for a couple of hours a time, raising eyebrows among foreign diplomats, who questioned how the US goal of reaching a full accord by April could ever be met.

'Evade international pressure'

The two sides met one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an uncompromising speech at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, blaming the continued impasse on a refusal by Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

His speech went down well with supporters of the illegal Jewish settlements that dot the occupied West Bank.

Settlers fear that Netanyahu could buckle under international pressure and give Palestinians most of the land seized in the 1967 war.

"Probably the best speech by Netanyahu as PM," Dani Dayan, a former leader of the Yesha Council, a settler lobby group, said appreciatively on Twitter.

A senior Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, dismissed the speech as part of a "political game." He also criticised chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni, who suggested at the weekend that the talks could go on beyond the April deadline.

"This is a clear sign that Israel wants to draw out the process of negotiations for as long as possible so that it can evade international pressure and American disfavour," he told Voice of Palestine radio.

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Source:
Reuters
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