Arabs Agree, in Principle, to Israel-Palestinian Talks
Up to Abbas to decide on when to commence with negotiations.
On Thursday, Arab officials agreed to holding direct Middle East peace talks, leaving it up to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to decide when said talks will commence.
Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who chaired a meeting of foreign ministers and representatives, responded to a question about whether they had given Abbas the go-ahead to begin talks.
It would ultimately be up to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, it had been decided, to choose whether to hold talks, based on whatever conditions he sees fit, Jassim said.
"I'll be clear. There is an agreement but with the understanding of what will be discussed and how the direct negotiations will be conducted. And we will leave the assessment of the position to the Palestinian president as to when the conditions allow the beginning of such negotiations," he continued.
The Arab League did, however, stipulate conditions for direct peace negotiations, including a clear timeframe, specific reference terms, monitoring mechanism.
Jassim also added that he was "full of doubts" about whether Israel is in fact serious regarding the final stage of peace negotiations.
In Cairo Thursday, Abbas attended the Arab League meeting which was to decide whether the organization would support the urging of both the U.S. and Israel for direct talks.
Israel and the Palestinians have been until now meeting indirectly with George Mitchell, the U.S. administration's Middle East envoy, who had been shuffling between the sides.
Abbas is currently under strong U.S. and European pressure to restart talks that had been frozen in 2008. According to Haaretz, the U.S. has, for the last few months, been mediating indirect negotiations between the two sides, but the Palestinian leader said he would only move toward direct talks if Israel agrees to a complete halt in settlement construction, as well as accepts a Palestinian state in the regions that had been seized in the 1967 Six Day War - the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
"When I receive written assurances [about] accepting the 1967 border and halting the settlement [building], I will go immediately to the direct talks," Abbas was quoted as saying by Egypt's state-owned news agency on Thursday.
The Arab League outlined three conditions for going ahead with direct talks, saying any future talks would be considered the "final phase" of negotiations.
In a letter to the Obama administration, the league said it required a clear timeframe, specific terms, and a monitoring implement in order to support said direct talks.
"I assure you I am not of the intention to enter into negotiations, without a time frame, without clear references and without monitoring," Arab League chief Amr Moussa said at a press conference held in Cairo.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a response to the Arab League’s statement, saying that he was indeed ready to commence direct peace negotiations in the near future. "By way of direct negotiations," he said, "a speedy peace agreement can be achieved."
"In response to the decisions of the Arab League, PM Benjamin Netanyahu says that he is willing to commence direct and honest talks with the Palestinian Authority within the next few days," the Israeli prime minister's office confirmed in a statement.