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Israel Expects Peace Talks with Palestinians to Begin Next Week

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel hopes to begin peace negotiations with the Palestinians next week, during a visit by U.S. envoy George Mitchell.

Mr. Netanyahu spoke to his Cabinet a day after the Arab League endorsed indirect peace talks for a period of four months.

The prime minister said direct talks are necessary to reach a peace agreement, but indirect talks are an acceptable way to restart the diplomatic process.

Peace talks broke down more than a year ago, and the Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians rejected Israel's offer of a partial freeze.

But now, the American proposal of indirect talks mediated by the United States has provided a way out of the impasse.

Palestinian officials say the first order of business during the four-month talks is charting the borders of a future Palestinian state. An agreement on borders could lead to direct talks on the thorniest issues of the conflict, including the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.