Middle East talks hit snag
Palestinians say Israel must agree on outlines for border
RAMALLAH, West Bank – A stormy, high-level meeting of senior Palestinian leaders called to discuss U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest peace proposal ended with a decision early today to demand guarantees that Israel agree on the general border of a future Palestinian state, officials said.
The demand casts a cloud of uncertainty over months of U.S. mediation efforts because Israel is weary of agreeing to preconditions, arguing it has not led to successful peace talks in the past. Palestinian officials said they wanted guarantees to ensure peace talks would lead to fruition.
Hoping to push Israelis and Palestinians toward talks, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to work with Kerry “to resume negotiations with Palestinians as soon as possible,” according to a statement released by the White House late Thursday.
After two separate meetings, Palestinian officials said they decided to send top negotiator Saeb Erekat to meet with Kerry “and inform him that Palestinians want guarantees regarding the general border,” said Wasel Abu Yussef, who was in the meeting.
He was referring to Israel’s de facto border that separates the Jewish state from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories that Israel conquered in the 1967 Mideast war.
Palestinians claim those territories for their future state, with modifications reached through agreed “land swaps” that would see major Jewish settlement blocks built in the West Bank becoming part of Israel proper, in exchange for territories elsewhere.
Abu Yussef said Erekat would also ask for more clarifications from Kerry on what Israel expects from negotiations.
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