Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that he was under pressure from the international community to begin direct negotiations with Israel.

He told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station that he would enter direct talks only if progress was first achieved on the future borders and security of a Palestinian state.

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Without “clear and specific references,” the negotiations would collapse from the beginning, Abbas said.

In an apparent reference to repeated statements by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he was willing to meet with Abbas in Ramallah or Jerusalem, Abbas said, “We are not against meetings, whether in Ramallah or Tel Aviv,” but that the “reference for negotiations” needed to be set. “After that, we are ready to go anywhere.

The entire world is asking us to go for direct negotiations, but going to negotiations without a clear reference might make them collapse from the first moment.”

Abbas has said repeatedly that he would enter into negotiations only if they were based on an Israeli commitment to a Palestinian state based on the pre-Six Day War lines. On Sunday, he also reiterated his demand that Israel freeze construction not only in the West Bank settlements, but also in east Jerusalem.

Abbas said that in recent days he had received phone calls from the leaders of Britain, Germany and Italy urging him to agree to direct talks. He is also expected to come under additional pressure when US envoy George Mitchell returns here later this week.

Arab League foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Cairo on Thursday and discuss whether to support a resumption of direct talks.

Abbas gave the interview while on his way to Uganda to attend the 15th Assembly of the African Union. Addressing the conference, he said that the Palestinians had chosen peace as a strategy, adding that Israel’s policies undermined the twostate solution and would plunge the region into another cycle of violence.

Also on Sunday, Netanyahu met in his office with visiting Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, fresh off the plane from a meeting earlier in the day in Istanbul with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.


AFP quoted Mottaki as saying after the meeting that Iran was ready to immediately start talks with the Western powers over a nuclear fuel swap proposal that Turkey, Brazil and Iran signed in May. World powers rejected that deal, saying it was too little, too late, and instead backed a fourth round of UN sanctions.

They did, however, leave the door open for talks on the matter.

Although Iran was believed to have been on the agenda during the Netanyahu-Amorim meeting, Israeli sources downplayed the significance of the foreign minister’s visit, saying it was to a large extent an attempt by Brazil to raise its profile on the world stage. Amorim is expected to meet later this week in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visited Israel in May.

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