Abbas to Egypt for talks on Mideast peace plan

Lebanese children protests in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Beirut against a barrier Egypt is constructing on its border with the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will travel to Egypt to discuss the possible relaunch of US-backed peace talks amid lingering divisions over Israeli settlement expansion.

Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said he would meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh today to discuss "important developments" in efforts to restart the talks.

Mubarak met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week as diplomats said that Washington was preparing letters of guarantee for the two sides to try to relaunch peace talks suspended a year ago over the Gaza war.

US President Barack Obama has repeatedly called on the two sides to return to the negotiating table, but the Palestinians have demanded that Israel first freeze all settlement activity and commit to a framework for the talks. "There are Arab and international efforts to create the climate to support the return to negotiations with the Israeli side based on a complete halt to settlements," said Abu Rudeina.

He added that the Palestinians would also require "specific guidelines" for the talks, including that the borders of a future Palestinian state encompass all of their land that Israel occupied in 1967.

"The Israeli position that we have seen up until now is not encouraging and it will not be possible to return to the negotiations based on it," he said.

Netanyahu in November imposed a 10-month halt on new construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank but excluded east Jerusalem, public buildings and housing units already under construction.

The Palestinians have insisted that mostly Arab east Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community – be the capital of their future Palestinian state.

 

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