Palestinians Weigh New Peace Talks Bid

W460

The Palestinians are looking to reactivate peace talks with Israel with the aim of resolving all final status issues within six months, a senior official said on Monday.

Speaking to the official Voice of Palestine radio, negotiator Saeb Erakat said "a new stage" had been reached after the Palestinians successfully won non-member status at the United Nations.

"After the U.N. resolution... a new stage has certainly started," he said, speaking a day after Arab League ministers met in Doha, Qatar.

The historic U.N. vote on November 29 had convinced the Arab world that "the peace process, and its references and involved parties including the (Middle East) Quartet, should be reconsidered," he said.

By the end of December, a Palestinian committee would work up action plans after which it would travel to the five permanent U.N. Security Council members -- Britain, France, Russia, China and the U.S. -- to see "whether there is a chance for the peace process and on which principles it should held".

Direct peace talks which began in September 2010 fell apart several weeks later over a dispute over settlements, with the Palestinians calling for a construction freeze and Israel arguing for a return to talks without such preconditions.

Erakat outlined three principles for a return to the negotiating table with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"The first principle is that the goal of the peace process -- according to all previously signed agreements and international law -- is the withdrawal of Israel to the June 4, 1967 borderline, including Jerusalem," he said.

"The second principle is related to the necessity of re-launching negotiations from the point they were halted, which means they should not start from scratch like Netanyahu wants them to be.

"The third principle is to set a six-month time-table for the negotiations to reach an agreement over all final status issues," he said.

"Settlement activity should be halted during this period of time and Palestinian prisoners should be released in accordance with previously signed agreements and not as preconditions."

According to a statement on the Doha talks published by the official WAFA news agency, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas proposed "a mechanism setting a six month deadline during which settlements would be halted and Israel would enter into negotiations on what was agreed" -- namely, the 1967 borders as a basis for a peace deal.

Before the start of talks in 2010, Israel observed a 10-month freeze on new West Bank construction, but has refused repeated requests to renew it, dismissing it as an unacceptable "precondition" for talks, although the Palestinians say it is an "obligation" under international law.

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