CAIRO, July 29 (Reuters/JMCC) - The Arab League has agreed in principle to direct Palestinian talks with Israel
provided the Palestinians see fit, Qatar's foreign minister said on Thursday.
Asked if the league would back direct talks, Hamad ibn Jassem said: Of course, there is agreement, but agreement over the principles of what will be discussed and the manner of the direct negotiations, he said.
It would be up to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
to decide whether to hold talks, based on whatever conditions he sees fit, Jassem said.
The decision by the Arab League to endorse direct talks is widely seen as political cover for the Palestinian leadership to engage directly with Israel, despite it remaining heavily unpopular.
President Abbas has been under intense pressure from the United States and the rest of the international community to enter direct negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu
Abbas has said he would not progress to direct talks until Israel proves it is serious about peace with the Palestinians by freezing settlement
construction in the West Bank
and East Jerusalem
Abbas received reassurance from the European Union and other countries over the past few days that the Palestinians will receive their support on key issues if direct negotiations take place.
Abbas also wants Israel to agree to the idea of a third party guarding the borders of a future Palestinian state before direct talks can begin. He also wants Israel to agree in principle to a fair land swap that would compensate Palestinians for West Bank land taken up by Jewish settlements some of which would be annexed to Israel under a future peace agreement.