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Palestinian peace talks with Israel tabled until construction stops

RIA Novosti


GAZA, January 25 (RIA Novosti) - The Palestinian National Authority will continue dialogue with the U.S. in regard to returning to the negotiation table with Israel, though regional peace talks are too early for the agenda, a PNA spokesman said on Monday.

Nabil Abu Rudeina said Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell in Jordan's capital of Amman for the second time in 48 hours, reiterating that the Palestinians will not return to talks until Israel halts its settlement construction in the West Bank.

"President [Abbas] has told Mitchell that the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people are devoted to the peace process on the basis of clear principles that include the complete halt of settlement activities," Rudeina said after the meeting with Mitchell.

Abbas is to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday in Sochi during a January 25-28 visit to the country.

Russia, along with the UN, the United States and European Union, comprises part of the Middle East Quartet of intermediaries for peace efforts.

Currently the main obstacle to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process is the issue of Jewish outpost expansion in the West Bank. The settlements are also a sticking point in Israel's relations with the U.S., its main strategic ally.

Under the internationally agreed roadmap for Middle East peace, Israel is obliged to freeze all settlement construction activity, and remove unauthorized outposts built since 2001 from the Palestinian territories.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in late November that construction would be limited in the occupied West Bank, but not in East Jerusalem. He also said construction would resume in the future.

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