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Hopes of restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks plummet

July 18, 2013|By Edmund Sanders
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presiding over a meeting Thursday in the West Bank town of Ramallah to discuss a U.S. proposal to restart peace talks with Israel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presiding over a meeting… (Atef Safadi / European Pressphoto…)

JERUSALEM – Despite heavy U.S. pressure, Palestinian leaders declined Thursday to endorse the latest proposal by U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry to restart peace talks with Israel.

Though no formal decision was announced, an urgent meeting in Ramallah ended with leaders saying the proposal did not go far enough in meeting their demands.

“There is opposition,’’ said Azzam Ahmad, a member of the central committee of Fatah, the dominant Palestinian faction.

The decision dashed hopes that had been rising frantically during the day that a breakthrough was imminent.

The Palestinian leaders are expected to issue later Thursday night a formal statement saying that they would neither accept nor reject Kerry’s plan and would instead seeks changes, officials said. The statement is expected to reiterate their demands that Israel halt all settlement construction on land it seized in 1967 and accept the pre-1967 lines as the basis for future talks, officials said.

So far Israel has refused both demands.

Substantive peace talks between Israel and Palestinians have been stalled since 2008, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met briefly in 2010 at the urging of President Obama. Those talks broke down a month later.

Kerry’s spokeswoman said Thursday there were no expectations that a resumption of talks would be announced. Kerry, who made restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations a top priority, is currently in Amman, Jordan and is expected to leave Friday. This is his sixth trip to the region in six months.

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Times correspondent Maher Abukhater in Ramallah contributed to this report.

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