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PLO gives approval for indirect talks with Israel

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A skeptical Palestinian leadership agreed Sunday to hold U.S.-mediated peace talks with Israel for four months, effectively ending a 14-month breakdown in communications between the two sides.

Sunday's decision marks the first achievement in more than a year for U.S. diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and a softening in the position of the Palestinian leadership, which has insisted it would not begin talks unless Israel fully froze construction in its settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The indirect format is meant to give the Palestinians the necessary political cover to resume talks. They warned they would walk away, however, if the outlines of a border deal with Israel have not emerged after four months. They also ruled out subsequent direct talks without a complete freeze of Israeli settlement construction.

"This peace process cannot go on forever," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. "Now it's time for decisions."

Sunday's decision by the Palestine Liberation Organization to resume talks came a day before U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden begins the highest-level visit to the area by an Obama administration official.

Israel accepted the indirect talks last week.

Erekat said he did not know when the talks would begin. They are expected to be held with the help of U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell, who is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again today, as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

PLO gives approval for indirect talks with Israel 03/07/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 7, 2010 9:43pm]

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