Sources in the Palestinian Authority have stated that direct negotiations between Israel and the PA will start next week in Cairo, according to a report in the Saudi newspaper Okaz on Sunday.

The report said the Quartet is expected to issue an announcement setting the frame of reference for the talks.

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The US and the international community have been exerting strong pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to begin direct negotiations over a Palestinian state. PA President Mahmoud Abbas in particular has been under constant seige, at one point saying "no human being could tolerate the pressure we are under."

US envoy George Mitchell has been circulating between Israel, the West Bank, and various Arab countries in a bid to push the process forward.

On Friday, a trilateral summit between PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak convened in Cairo to discuss the possibility of direct talks.

Reuters had indicated that the Quartet was working on a statement that would set the basis for the direct negotiations, which could be issued early next week.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton speculated that Abbas might even give a definitive answer with regard to the talks by early next week, according to a letter she wrote which was seen by Reuters.

In Washington US State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Wednesday that the Quartet was likely to issue a statement of support for the talks in the coming days.


Abbas first met with Mubarak in his presidential palace before seeing King Abdullah at Cairo Airport.

In the conversations with those two leaders, Abbas reportedly expressed concern that the US and EU would cut off funds to the PA government if it continued to reject direct negotiations with Israel.

The PA official predicted, however, that the direct talks would be launched at the beginning of October, once Ramadan and the feast of Idl Fitr ends.

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