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Kerry meets Palestinian negotiator about talks

Kerry meets Palestinian negotiator about talks

Amman: After Palestinian leaders demanded further guarantees before restarting talks with Israel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed his ideas with the chief Palestinian negotiator in Amman on Friday.

A stormy, high-level meeting of senior Palestinian leaders called to discuss U.S. Secretary of State Mr. Kerry’s latest peace proposal ended with a decision on early Friday to demand that Israel agree on the general border of a future Palestinian state, officials said.

The demand casts a cloud of uncertainty over months of U.S. mediation efforts because Israel rejects preconditions.

No details were immediately available about Mr. Kerry’s meeting with Mr. Erekat. The talks lasted more than two hours with a short break in the middle, possibly for consultations.

The Palestinians demand is that the starting point for border talks must be the cease-fire line that held from 1949 until the 1967 war, when Israel captured the West Bank. Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Palestinians claim those territories for their future state, with modifications reached through agreed land swaps that could allow major Jewish settlement blocs built in the West Bank becoming part of Israel proper, in exchange for territories in Israel.

Previous Israeli governments twice negotiated on the basis of the 1967 lines, but no peace accord was reached.

Palestinian official Wasel Abu Yussef said Mr. Erekat would ask for more clarifications from Mr. Kerry on what Israel expects from negotiations.

Mr. Abu Yussef said Palestinians did not want to reject Mr. Kerry’s efforts to restart negotiations outright.

The Palestinians did not bring up their often-repeated demand that Israel stop building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem before talks could resume. One official said that if Israel accepts the 1967 lines as a basis that would make most of the settlements illegitimate.

While Mr. Kerry has not publicized details of his plan, the Arab League’s decision on Wednesday to endorse his proposal raised speculation that the Palestinians would agree. Mr. Abbas traditionally has sought the blessing of his Arab brethren before making any major diplomatic initiative.

U.S. officials played down hopes that negotiations would begin soon.

“There are currently no plans for an announcement on the resumption of negotiations,” Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kerry, told reporters in Jordan. An Israeli Cabinet minister said no deal was imminent.

Mr. Kerry has been shuttling for months in search of a formula to allow resumption of talks after a nearly five-year break. Talks have been stalled since late 2008.

Ahmed Majdalani, a PLO executive committee member, said Mr. Kerry has proposed holding talks for six to nine months focusing on the key issues of borders and security arrangements.

Although the plan does not include a settlement freeze, it was not clear whether Israel would accept any reference to the 1967 lines.

Israeli Cabinet minister Yair Lapid said it was “too early to say” whether Mr. Kerry had found a formula for talks.

“Secretary Kerry has done a tremendous job in trying to put both sides together,” he told AP. “Of course Israel is more than willing and has expressed its agreement to go back to the negotiation table, but apparently it’s going to take a little more time.”

While Israel has balked at Palestinian demands, the international community has largely rallied behind the Palestinian position on borders and Jewish settlements.


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