Palestinian leaders 'to discuss peace talks'

PLO member says President Mahmoud Abbas will hold talks with other senior figures over possible dialogue with Israel.

    Palestinian leaders 'to discuss peace talks'
    Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, held talks with John Kerry, the US secretary of state, in Jordan [Reuters]

    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to meet senior Palestinian leaders to discuss a possible resumption of peace talks with Israel after an almost three-year freeze, officials have said.

    The officials gave no details on what Abbas's terms for peace talks might be, should he announce a breakthrough after meeting in Jordan with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has pursued six months of intensive and deliberately discreet diplomacy.

    Abbas was due to convene senior members of the umbrella Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and his Fatah party on Thursday in Ramallah, a hub city of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and seat of his US-backed administration.

    "We are expecting to hear from the president the ideas presented by Kerry," Wasel Abu Yousef, a leading PLO member, told the Reuters news agency.  

    "There will be a discussion on these ideas, and everyone will say what he thinks about this. The conclusion will be by a general consensus."

    Gaps between the sides had "very significantly" narrowed, Kerry said on Wednesday.

    His proposals to resume negotiations won the endorsement of an Arab League committee, which said they "provide the ground and a suitable environment to start negotiations".

    Abbas, whose peace strategy is routinely censured by rival faction Hamas, who control the beseiged Gaza Strip, has in the past sought support Arab League support to engage Israel, but it was not clear whether Wednesday's endorsement would give him enough political cover to resume direct peace talks.

    Sticking points

    Negotiations, which have ebbed and flowed for two decades, last broke down in late 2010 over Israel's West Bank settlements and other sticking points.

    Since then, Abbas at times has insisted that Israel renew and extend a halt on settlement construction for new talks to be held. Israel has ruled that out.

    Palestinians familiar with Abbas's thinking speculated he might forgo the demand for a construction halt given a recent slowdown in housing starts issued by the Israeli government - though it may still be painful to roll back his previous demand.

    If Abbas yields on the issue, it may have been in exchange for a goodwill gesture from Israel - such as amnesty for veteran PLO fighters held in its jails for decades.

    Israel gave no signs that such prisoner releases were in the offing, or any gestures on settlements.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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