Abbas sends Netanyahu letter with Palestinian demands

Mahmoud Abbas in Amman (25 January 2012) The Palestinians have demanded an end to Israeli settlement building as a prerequisite for peace talks

A letter detailing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's demands for restarting peace talks has been handed to Israel's prime minister.

Palestinian officials gave the document to Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting in Jerusalem, at which both sides said they were "committed to reach peace".

Mr Netanyahu will reply within 14 days.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad earlier pulled out of the meeting, torpedoing what would have been the highest-level talks since late 2010.

Negotiations on a two-state solution stalled following a dispute over Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

'Serious'

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Fayyad had been due to meet at the Israeli prime minister's official residence on Tuesday for what Palestinian officials said was a last-ditch attempt to revive the peace process before the US presidential election campaign got under way.

But only hours before it was meant to start, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said only he and the head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, Maj Gen Majed Farj, would be attending.

Start Quote

[Benjamin Netanyahu] has intensified the settlements, and the solution was to send him the letter in which we stress the status quo cannot continue and we can't accept it forever”

End Quote Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Authority President

He gave no explanation and Mr Fayyad's office declined to comment.

Afterwards, Mr Netanyahu's office issued a statement confirming that the prime minister had received a letter from the Palestinian officials.

"At the end of the meeting the following statement was agreed upon: Israel and the PA are committed to reach peace," it said.

"Within two weeks a letter will be delivered from PM Netanyahu to President Abbas. Both sides hope that this exchange of letters will help find a way to promote peace."

Mr Erekat later described the meeting as "serious".

The letter from President Abbas demands that Israel freeze all settlement construction, and accept the borders which were in place before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestine, with mutually agreed modifications, according to a draft seen by the Associated Press.

Mr Abbas has also said that the letter accuses Israel of undermining the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank.

"[Benjamin Netanyahu] has intensified the settlements, and the solution was to send him the letter in which we stress the status quo cannot continue and we can't accept it forever," he told reporters in Sri Lanka.

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