Israel's Prime Minister has told a meeting of his party's ministers that direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority will start in mid-August. Benjamin Netanyahu also claimed that his government does intend to commit to the PA's prerequisite for direct talks a full freeze on settlement construction.
The PA's chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has made it clear that the Palestinian Authority does not intend to start direct talks with the Israelis before the latter accept all of the Palestinian conditions for such talks to take place. One of the conditions is the need for an agreement on the agenda for the talks to include the status of Jerusalem, the demarcation of the borders and the right of return of Palestinian refugees, as well as the illegal settlements built in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Jerusalem.
"The key to direct negotiations is in the hands of [Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu," added Mr. Erekat. "The minute he agrees to stop settlement construction and to have terms of reference for these negotiations around a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, we will have direct negotiations immediately."