Arab League calls for ending support for talks

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CAIRO: The Arab League recommended on Wednesday to withdraw its support for indirect talks between Palestinians and Israelis due to recent announcements of new settlement building in east Jerusalem.

The league s peace initiative committee s decision is only a recommendation and a final decision will have to be made by the foreign ministers of the Arab nations.

The March 3 decision by Arab foreign ministers to back the US-sponsored indirect talks with Israel gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the political cover he needed to restart peace negotiations after a 14-month hiatus.

In case of the failure to stop the Israeli measures immediately … the committee concludes that the proposed talks are irrelevant, the committee s statement said, calling for a convening of foreign ministers to reconsider their support.

Israel s approval of 1,600 new housing units to be built in East Jerusalem shortly after Abbas agreed to resume talks has been widely condemned by the Palestinians and visiting Vice President Joe Biden.

The committee recommended linking the cessation of plans to build the settlement housing units to any resumption of talks.

No date was given for the proposed meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

The Israeli construction plans have overshadowed Biden s visit, meant to promote the new round of US-led negotiations, and drew Palestinian accusations that Israel is not serious about peace. Israel apologized for embarrassing Biden with the timing of its announcement, but made clear it had no intention of reversing its plan.

Israel s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given only conditional support for Palestinian independence and signaled that he wants to retain control of key parts of the West Bank, including Jewish settlements.

The US, along with the Palestinians, consider settlements built on lands claimed by the Palestinians to be obstacles to peace.

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