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18 Apr, 2012 06:58

False start: Israeli-Palestinian talks collapse

Palestine’s prime minister has pulled out of planned negotiations with his Israeli counterpart. The talks promised to be the first high level meeting of the two sides of the conflict in almost two years.

It appears that expectations of the US, the main initiator of the talks, have been dashed and the last chance to bring seemingly irreconcilable opponents to the negotiation table before the US presidential elections has been lost.Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority has allegedly pulled out of talks because of possible public opposition to the meeting.Instead, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to meet with two lower-level Palestinian officials, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and a top security official, Majed Faraj, so the lack of any tangible result was predictable. The brief summation of the results of the meeting said traditional words of “seeking peace”.“Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to reaching peace,” the statement read.The Palestinian side submitted a letter with a list of demands they consider necessary for the resumption of talks. The Associated Press obtained the text of the letter which says that Israel must freeze all settlement construction and accept its pre-1967 war boundaries as a precondition for talks. Israel has repeatedly stressed that it will only go to the negotiation table if there are no preconditions.Netanyahu promised to prepare a response in the fortnight.With or without Salam Fayyad’s presence, the expectations ahead of the talks were low.The previous direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine initiated by Barack Obama in 2010 have borne no fruit because Israel refused to stop settlement construction on the occupied Palestinian territories.