The United States is stepping up pressure on the Palestinians to jump-start the peace process.
U.S. President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas demanding he move from the current framework of indirect peace talks with Israel to direct negotiations. Palestinian officials say the letter warned that if Mr. Abbas refuses, it could harm relations between the United States and the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat responded to the letter on Israel Radio.
"We hope that we can resume the negotiations immediately," Erekat said.
But Erekat said there are conditions: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must stop all settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and agree to the creation of a Palestinian state on territory captured by Israel during the 1967 war.
"I really believe that the key to these negotiations, direct negotiations, is in Mr. Netanyahu's hands because I do not think that anybody can accept negotiations without (an) agenda, without terms of reference (and) without (a) time ceiling," Erekat said.
At the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Mr. Netanyahu said direct talks should resume without preconditions.
The Prime Minister said the international community, and especially the United States expects, the Palestinian Authority to stop making excuses and enter into face-to-face negotiations. He said that is the only way to hammer out a peace treaty.
So President Abbas faces a tough decision: Palestinian public opinion opposes direct talks without guarantees of Israeli concessions; but if negotiations do not get moving, the world could blame the Palestinians for scuttling an opportunity for peace.
Obama Letter to Palestinians Demands Direct Peace Talks
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