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U.S. presses Abbas to resume direct peace talks

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A senior U.S. envoy warned the Palestinian president that he must move quickly to direct talks with Israel if he wants President Barack Obama's help in setting up a Palestinian state, according to an internal Palestinian document obtained by the Associated Press on Monday.

The 36-page memo, sent to senior Palestinian officials, advised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resist growing U.S. pressure, warning that rescinding his conditions for face-to-face negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be "political suicide."

Abbas says he won't resume talks that broke off in December 2008 unless Netanyahu accepts the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, and freezes settlement building there.

Netanyahu refuses to commit to anything before the start of talks, but has said he will not give up east Jerusalem.

The Palestinian memo was distributed just before a crucial meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Thursday in Cairo.

The ministers are to decide between a move to direct talks or support of the Palestinian position that U.S. shuttle diplomacy should run its course.

Indirect talks, with U.S. envoy George Mitchell meeting separately with Abbas and Netanyahu, began in May and were to last up until early September.

However, in recent days, the U.S. has stepped up pressure on Abbas to go to direct talks now.

In a July 17 meeting, Mitchell told Abbas that direct talks must begin soon in order to keep Obama engaged, according to the Palestinian memo.

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U.S. presses Abbas to resume direct peace talks 07/26/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 26, 2010 10:20pm]
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