Abbas hopes for 'positive' Arab response on peace talks

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has said he hopes for a "positive response" when he presents US proposals for renewed negotiations with Israel to Arab foreign ministers next week.

"The discussions are still ongoing" with US special envoy George Mitchell, who was in the region over the weekend, Abbas told Israel's Channel 2 television in an interview broadcast Monday night.

"We will submit everything that has been presented to us to the Arab Follow-up Committee on the first of next month and we hope there will be a positive response," he said, referring to the group of foreign ministers.

Washington has for months been pressing Israel and the Palestinians to renew peace talks last suspended after the December 2008 outbreak of the Gaza war, but the Palestinians have demanded that Israel first freeze all settlement activity, including in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem.

Abbas reluctantly agreed to indirect talks after receiving backing from the Arab committee in March but that effort collapsed days later when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new settler homes in east Jerusalem.

Israel seized the mostly Arab sector of the city in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community. It views the entire city as its "eternal, undivided" capital.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as their capital and fear that continued Israeli settlement construction there and in the occupied West Bank threatens the viability of their promised state.

Israel agreed in November to a 10-month halt in new construction in the occupied West Bank but has repeatedly refused to extend the moratorium to east Jerusalem.

Source: AFP

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