Last updated: 29 January, 2012

Abbas consults party on Israel talks

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Sunday convened the central committee of his Fatah movement to discuss contacts with Israel after a series of preliminary talks.

Abbas, opening the meeting, said he would consult with the leadership of his party and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), as well as the Arab League Follow-Up Committee, on the next steps for the Palestinians.

After the meeting, Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said the committee had stressed “the consistency of the movement’s position that a return to direct negotiations required (from Israel) a halt to settlements and the acceptance of the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.”

The meeting came as the Palestinians sought to evaluate their options after five rounds of “exploratory talks” with the Israelis, intended to help the parties chart a route back to direct negotiations.

After the fifth round of talks, held in Amman and sponsored by Jordan and the peacemaking Quartet, the Palestinians said Israel had “moved not one step to enable a resumption of negotiations.”

The Quartet, comprising the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia, called on October 26 for both sides to present comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months, as a first step towards resuming direct talks on hold since late September 2010.

The Palestinians say they did so, charging Israel failed to reciprocate and pledging to end the talks by the January 26 deadline.

Israel says it considers the three-month period to have begun with the first round of exploratory talks, on January 3, and says the meetings should continue, describing them as having been “better than expected.”

Abbas is to convene a meeting of the PLO’s executive committee on Monday, and is expected to head to Cairo shortly after for talks with members of the Arab League.

Asked on Sunday about the prospects of renewed peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The signs are not particularly propitious.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected in Jerusalem on Tuesday and in Ramallah on Wednesday to persuade the two sides to move forward.

The European Union’s head of diplomacy Catherine Ashton visited the region last week.