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Abbas signals readiness to resume talks with Israel

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16 Jan 2010 21:48:18 GMT

Source: Reuters

By Ali Sawafta

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has signalled a readiness to resume peace talks with Israel if the United States were to set out specific goals for negotiations, official Palestinian news agency Wafa said on Saturday.

The remarks published as Washington's peace envoy George Mitchell was due to launch a fresh round of mediation talks, were the first sign Abbas may ease his months-long refusal to resume negotiations before Jewish settlement building stopped.

Abbas told his Fatah group's Revolutionary Council on Friday, "Either Israel commits to a halt of settlement, and the terms of reference, or America comes and says this is the endgame with regard to defining borders, the refugee issue, and other final issues, so we can reach a political solution."

Abbas met U.S. national security advisor Jim Jones on Thursday and was quoted separately that day as saying he stuck by his insistence that settlement expansion be halted in the West Bank before negotiations stalled since 2008 may resume.

He has rejected a limited, 10-month construction freeze ordered by Israel in November as insufficient, but the U.S. has sought to coax Abbas to resume talks with Israel by urging the sides to focus on future borders of a Palestinian state.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said agreeing on borders and the status of Jerusalem could sidestep a deadlock over Jewish settlements.

American and regional officials have said the United States is looking at what assurances it might provide the Palestinians and Israelis -- possibly in the form of letters -- that might help the parties get back to the table.

Netanyahu has said for months he was ready to resume peace talks unconditionally. He has refused to halt settlement building in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed as part of its capital in a move not recognised internationally.

But Netanyahu has not ruled out negotiation on any issue, though if he agreed to discuss Jerusalem's future he could face problems within his right-wing governing coalition, and may then need support from centre and left-wing parliamentary parties. (Additional reporting by Tom Perry; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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