GAZA CITY — Palestinian and Israeli negotiators will start four weeks of intensive and "decisive" peace talks Monday in a last-ditch effort to end 52 years of conflict, Palestinian officials said Saturday.
Nabil abu Rudaineh, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, said the agreement to pursue talks was reached during President Clinton's separate meetings with Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the U.N. Millennium Summit in New York last week. The meetings did not produce the breakthrough that Washington had been hoping for.
"The negotiations will last for four weeks. The coming four weeks will be decisive," Abu Rudaineh said.
Arafat, who returned to Gaza on Saturday, said the peace talks will be held in the region.
With the peace process in apparent deadlock, Palestinian lawmakers began a two-day debate Saturday over whether to postpone their declaration of statehood past its deadline Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Clinton and Barak met Saturday in New York to discuss whether the peace talks can be salvaged.
U.S. and Israeli officials played down the meeting's significance.
"It was really informal. . . . It was not terribly substantive," said Jake Siewert, the White House deputy press secretary.