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Palestinians Question US Ability to Continue Peace Talks

A construction worker works on a new housing unit in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, 08 Dec 2010

Palestinians on Wednesday questioned the ability of the United States to continue to mediate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a day after officials said the U.S. had abandoned efforts to persuade Israel to renew a West Bank settlement moratorium.

The Associated Press quotes chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as saying the next step in the peace process will be to ask the international community to recognize a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian WAFA news agency quotes President Mahmoud Abbas as saying the European Union and Greece could play a key role in peace talks. He commented Wednesday in Athens during a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

On Tuesday, State Department officials said Washington does not believe at this time that an Israeli moratorium would provide the basis for resuming direct negotiations. Israel's previous moratorium on West Bank construction expired in late September.

Mideast historian Michael Fischbach on the US decision to ease its push for a moratorium on West Bank settlements:

U.S. officials said the broader effort to achieve a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict will continue. They said the goal of a framework agreement on core issues has not changed.

Palestinians oppose Israeli construction in occupied territory they want as part of a future state. They say they will not return to direct talks with Israel while new construction is under way.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are expected to visit Washington next week for separate consultations on how to move the Middle East peace process forward.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration offered Israel diplomatic incentives and new fighter jets in an effort to renew the freeze for another three months. But Washington said Tuesday the offer is now off the table.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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