Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom said on Thursday that US-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians could begin next week, though neither side has formally given any such date.

"As I understand, today, I think that the Palestinians will decide to come next week," Shalom told reporters during a meeting with the Palestinians in Jericho.

"But of course it's not something that I can speak of on behalf of the Palestinians. If they will do so, as I said, the negotiations will start next Tuesday in Washington."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office had no immediate comment on Shalom's remarks.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu told reporters: "I hope that soon we will be able to see the beginning of peace talks (with the Palestinians). Our team is ready. We have always been ready."

Israeli officials said the prime minister, who faces skepticism about the prospect of new negotiations from religious-nationalist members of his coalition government, might hold off on sending negotiators to Washington until after he secured the approval of his cabinet when it convenes on Sunday.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas'd spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said the Palestinians awaited an invitation from the United States.

"The Palestinian delegation is ready," he told Reuters. "We are committed to the meeting that was agreed to be held in Washington to discuss the issues."

Justice Minister and chief Israeli peace negotiator Tzipi Livni, and Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molho, are set to meet with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Washington to discuss the terms for renewing talks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that the sides had laid the groundwork for new peace talks after an almost three-year stalemate, and that he expected them to send negotiators to Washington soon.

Israel says it is ready for the relaunch of talks without preconditions, but the Palestinians have sought reassurances about delineating the borders of the state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called Livni and Abbas on Wednesday, urging them to rapidly resume direct peace talks, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported on Thursday.

Fabuis told Abbas and Livni of "the determination of France to support the peace efforts and favor the conclusion of an agreement putting an end to the conflict."

On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will present a draft of his referendum bill to the cabinet, Israel media reported on Thursday. If passed, the referendum law would elevate the existing legislation to require that any peace agreement be brought to the public for a vote.

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