Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, seen here in February 2012, will send a letter to Israel's premier on the state of stalled peace talks on April 17, a Palestinian official tells AFP. © Abbas Momani - AFP/File
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas
Last updated: April 8, 2012

Palestinian leader to send Israel PM letter on peace talks

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will send a letter to Israel's premier on the state of stalled peace talks on April 17, a Palestinian official told AFP on Sunday.

The letter is expected to lay out Palestinian conditions for returning to direct negotiations that have been on hold since late September 2010.

The Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the letter would be handed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a delegation of senior Palestinians.

"It was agreed that a Palestinian delegation, including Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Yasser Abed Rabbo and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, will meet with Netanyahu on the 17th of this month," the official said.

Israeli officials had no comment on the reported meeting date.

Abbas has said for several weeks he was in the process of penning a letter to Netanyahu, which is expected to lay out Palestinian conditions for resuming negotiations, including a halt to Israeli settlement construction and clear parameters for discussions of future borders.

Abbas has indicated that he will accuse Netanyahu of rendering the Palestinian Authority government "a non-authority", but is expected to stop short of threatening to disband the PA as reports had earlier suggested he would.

Netanyahu's office has said that he will respond with his own letter to Abbas, which is likely to call for a resumption of direct negotiations without preconditions.

Last week, Erakat and Netanyahu's envoy Yitzhak Molcho held talks believed to have focused on the contents of Abbas's letter.

They were the first publicly acknowledged discussions since five rounds of so-called exploratory talks between envoys from both sides were held earlier this year.

Those discussions, sponsored by the Middle East peacemaking Quartet and held in Amman, ended in January without any agreement to continue talking or to return to direct negotiations.

The Palestinians have accused Israel of failing to present proposals on borders and security called for by the Quartet, which groups the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia.

Israel says it wants talks without preconditions, but the Palestinians have sought an Israeli settlement freeze and clear parameters for discussions before resuming direct negotiations.

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since September 2010 due to a thorny dispute over Jewish settlement building.

Abbas on Sunday held talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Ramallah, and repeated his insistence that negotiations could not resume without a settlement freeze.

"We talked about a range of issues of common interest, the first of which was the deadlock in the peace process caused by the Israeli government's continued settlement policy in the West Bank, including Jerusalem," Abbas said.

Monti is holding talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials on Sunday on his first trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories since taking office.

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