Arab League backs direct talks

Timing to be left to Palestinians; conditions are set.

Abbas Arab League (photo credit: Associated Press)
Abbas Arab League
(photo credit: Associated Press)
In a Cairo meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the renewal of direct talks Thursday, the Arab League said that it endorsed direct talks within certain conditions when the Palestinian side was ready to proceed.  In the meantime, they said, the League supported indirect negotiations.
Qatar's Prime Minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, chaired the meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo.  He said that while Arab nations have endorsed direct Palestinian talks with the Israelis in principle, they have left the timing to the Palestinians themselves.
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He said that the timing of direct talks "is a matter for the Palestinian side to decide." He added that there would also be certain conditions upon which progress would depend.
"Of course, there is agreement, but agreement over the principles of what will be discussed and the manner of the direct negotiations," he said.
The Arab League reportedly outlined a set of conditions for negotiations, including a set time-frame.
The Arab foreign ministers also sent a letter to President Barack Obama explaining the Arab position on direct negotiations and their requirements for talks.
Al Thani said that the ministers had originally been against endorsing direct talks, but due to the serious situation in the region they were willing give it a try.
"We have confidence in America and in President Obama to reach peace, but the question is can that be achieved?" he said, while expressing doubt that it would be possible under current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The most important issue to consider was the Palestinian interests, not pressure from the US, the League said in the meeting with Abbas on Thursday.Abbas has reportedly spoken about the immense pressure he is under, saying "I am under a kind of pressure I haven't been through all my life." 
"When I receive written assurances (about) accepting the 1967 border and halting the settlement (building), I will go immediately to the direct talks," he was quoted as saying in remarks reported by Egypt's state-owned news agency Thursday.
Abbas said he would take assurances either directly from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or indirectly from the United States or the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, two Arab nations that have also acted as mediators between the two sides.
Netanyahu issued a statement Thursday after the Arab League meeting saying he was "ready to start direct and genuine talks with the Palestinian Authority in the coming days."
The Prime Minister also said that in direct talks, it would be possible in the near future to reach an agreement between the two peoples.