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Last Updated: Monday, 14 January 2008, 09:56 GMT
Mid-East talks on 'core issues'
Tzipi Livni, Ahmed Qurei, Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert (27 December 2007)
There have been a series of meetings since the Annapolis talks
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have begun talks in Jerusalem on what are seen as the most intractable issues in the peace process.

These include the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a Palestinian state, Jewish settlements in the West Bank, refugees, security and water resources.

The talks are being led by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.

Three Palestinian militants died in an Israeli strike in Gaza on Sunday.

The vehicle in which the men were travelling through the Shati refugee camp near Gaza City was struck by an Israeli Air Force missile.

If we reach an agreement on all these issues, then we can say that we have reached a final agreement
Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian Authority President

The raid had targeted militants involved in attacks on Israel, the Israeli military said.

One of the men has been named as Nidal Amudi, who was a senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group linked to the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Another was identified as Mahir Mabhuh, who belonged to another group, while the identity of the third militant was unknown.

'Final agreement'

During a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, Mr Abbas said the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams would begin discussion of the core "final stage issues" in the peace process at their meeting on Monday.

"If we reach an agreement on all these issues, then we can say that we have reached a final agreement," he said, adding that any peace treaty would have to resolve the disputes over all issues.

Palestinians wheel the body of a militant into hospital following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City
The talks come in the wake of an Israeli air strike in Gaza

Mr Abbas added that both sides would at the same time have to implement the first phase of the "road map" formulated by the Middle East Quartet in 2003, which suggests how a final settlement might be approached, and resolve economic and security issues in the West Bank.

The first phase of the road map requires:

  • Both sides to issue statements supporting the two-state solution
  • The Palestinians to end violence, act against "all those engaged in terror", draw up a constitution and hold elections
  • The Israelis to stop settlement building activities and act with military restraint

A spokesman for the Israeli government, Mark Regev, also confirmed the negotiating teams would meet on Monday, and that they had received a mandate to discuss the core issues.

Hamas offer

Prospects for a comprehensive settlement were given fresh impetus by the US peace conference at Annapolis, Maryland, in November, after which Mr Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to restart talks after seven years.

OBSTACLES TO PEACE
Jerusalem holy sites

US President George W Bush, who visited Israel and the West Bank last week, has said Israel and the Palestinians could sign a peace treaty within a year.

"I believe it's going to happen, that there will be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office," he told reporters in Ramallah on Thursday.

In his speech, Mr Abbas said he had warned the president that the Palestinians could not move ahead in the negotiations while Jewish settlements continued to be built in the West Bank.

"We can't have negotiations while they are building houses all over," he added.

The Palestinian leader also said he was willing to restart talks with the Islamist movement, Hamas, if it relinquished control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas ousted Mr Abbas's Fatah movement from the coastal territory in June following a week of violent clashes.

"I am ready to negotiate with Hamas even if the United States does not accept it," he said. "Such a dialogue is very important."

A Hamas statement denounced Mr Abbas's speech as "full of lies and fabrications".



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