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Monday Feb. 8, 2010 9:01 PM (EST+7)
Palestinians say 'proximity talks' should focus on borders

Read more: Palestinian Authority, Riyad al-Malki, Mahmoud Abbas, peace process, proximity talks, borders

JERUSALEM, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Palestinian officials demanded on Monday that any US-backed peace talks with Israel focus on border issues and be given a deadline of up to four months.

Washington has proposed circumventing a dispute preventing the resumption of talks, stalled for more than a year since a war in Gaza, by reconvening in the form of proximity talks on an indirect basis, under closer American mediation.

Israel has agreed to the formula but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will announce a decision after hearing answers to some questions he has put to Washington.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said in Tokyo on Monday that proximity talks should focus on one issue only. That issue is borders, but also deal with other conflict issues such as water, security and Jerusalem.

Malki, visiting the Japanese capital with Abbas, added that the timeframe for such talks should be no more than three to four months.

Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian negotiator, said separately in a statement that Palestinians wanted to see the specific objectives and timelines for proximity talks.

Only then will they be considered, he said.

Abbas has made any resumption of peace talks conditional on Israel halting Jewish settlement building in occupied land. He rejected a temporary construction freeze ordered by Israel in November as insufficient, particularly for excluding Jerusalem.

Israel sees East Jerusalem, territory it captured in a 1967 war and annexed, as a part of its capital. That view is not recognised internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in London that he was confident the Palestinians would accept the proposed formula for indirect talks.

Proximity talks are not our first choice, but they are better than no talks, Ayalon said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a week ago he had a basis to hope, in a realistic way that peace talks would resume in the coming weeks. (Additional reporting by Yoko Nishikawa in Tokyo)






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