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Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Sunday, 2 May 2010 13:34 UK

Arab League backs restart of Israeli-Palestinian talks

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat attends Arab League talks in Cairo
Arab League ministers say they will review the process

Arab League foreign ministers have backed the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian so-called proximity talks.

They said the indirect negotiations would last four months with the outcome to be reviewed before any direct talks. Israel has welcomed the endorsement.

The US has said the talks will begin next week.

Plans to launch the indirect talks failed last month over a row about Israeli plans to build 1,600 homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since 2008.

Erekat threat

The US has been struggling to get the proximity talks under way.

These were knocked off course by an announcement in March that Israel had approved plans for the new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo during a visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden.

The Palestinians - who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state - then pulled out of the scheduled indirect talks in protest.

Osnat Schwartz, Israeli citizen

But on Saturday, a committee of foreign minister of the the Arab League issued a statement to support the resumption.

"Despite the lack of conviction of the Israeli side in achieving peace, the committee affirms what was agreed on 2 March 2010 in regards to the time period for the indirect negotiations," the statement said.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said any Israeli construction in occupied East Jerusalem would end the talks.

"If they build one unit out of the 1,600, we will not go to the talks," Mr Erekat said.

US envoy George Mitchell's team has been actively trying to extract guarantees from the Israelis to bring the Palestinians back to the proposed talks.

A report in the Wall Street Journal last week quoted unnamed US officials as saying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had offered measures including easing the blockade on Gaza, releasing prisoners, freezing the controversial 1,600 homes for two years, and agreeing to discuss borders and the status of Jerusalem.

In an interview given to Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam on Sunday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said US President Barack Obama had given a commitment he would not allow "any provocative measures by either side". He also said Mr Obama had invited him to Washington this month.

Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967. It insists Jerusalem will remain its undivided capital.

Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements in the West Bank, among a Palestinian population of about 2.5 million.

The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.



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