Clinton presses for direct talks

Secretary of State calls PM after Mitchell visit fails to yield talks.

Hillary Clinton 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Hillary Clinton 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton telephoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss the issues preventing the initiation of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the US State Department said Friday according to Reuters.
The phone call came on Thursday evening after a visit by US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell failed to bring an agreement to begin direct talks.  US State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said that Clinton also spoke with the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt in an attempt to promote peace negotiations.
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may agree to direct talks next week if Israel agrees to pre-1967 borders, according to a letter found by Reuters on Thursday.
The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton reportedly said in the letter that Abbas would release a statement as early as next week, if both parties agreed to direct talks. Negotiations would begin before the end of the month.
On Friday, sources in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's officer released a statement denying a related report from London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, that said that Israel would evacuate 90% of the territory and 50,000 settlers in the West Bank. Netanyahu's office said the report is a lie.
"In principle, President Abbas should be in a position to give a definite answer by Sunday or early next week," Ashton wrote. "Abbas is very close" to proceeding to direct talks.
The Quartet "should help President Abbas rally enough support, both at home and abroad, to engage in direct talks," Ashton reportedly added.
Ashton also recalled the Quartet's demand that Israel stop building in the West Bank, in order to reach a peace treaty within two years. These conditions would "be issued concurrently with the announcement of the launch of direct talks."