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Palestinians: Israel Must Stop Building for Talks to Work

Palestinian officials say they will pull out of peace talks if Israel continues settlement activity, as the two sides prepare to hold direct negotiations for the first time in two years.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the future of the peace talks relies on whether Israel decides to resume settlement construction. A moratorium on such construction is due to expire on September 26.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted there be no preconditions for the talks.

Both sides have accepted a U.S. invitation to launch the process in Washington at the beginning of September with talks to include the leaders of Egypt and Jordan.

U.S. officials say the ultimate goal is to create a separate Palestinian state. They are hopeful the negotiations can be concluded within a year.

Meanwhile, the militant Palestinian Hamas faction, which rules the Gaza Strip, is not participating and has denounced the talks.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the resumption of direct negotiations. A statement from his office Saturday said this is an opportunity that must not be wasted.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.