Arab League to hold meeting key to peace talks on Friday

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CAIRO: The Arab League will hold a meeting next Friday seen as key to saving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, ahead of a summit in Libya, an official told AFP.

"It has been decided that the Arab committee for peace will meet on Oct.8 in the Libyan city of Sirte," Ahmed bin Hilli, the Arab League’s deputy secretary general, said on Saturday.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas plans to announce at the meeting if he will carry out a repeated threat to walk out of the US-backed peace talks over Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

The gathering was initially planned for Monday but was first pushed back to Wednesday to give the United States a chance to rescue the peace talks that resumed on Sept. 2.

Cairo then asked that the meeting be postponed again because Oct. 6 is a public holiday in Egypt.

Arab foreign ministers are due to meet in Sirte on Oct. 8 to prepare for a summit to be held the following day.

Their meeting with Abbas comes amid international efforts to get both the Israeli and Palestinian sides to continue the negotiations.

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton shuttled between Jerusalem and Ramallah on Friday in a bid to keep the fledgling talks going.

Abbas had repeatedly warned he would pull out of the talks if Israel did not extend a 10-month freeze on the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank after it expired on Sept. 26.

Israel refused to extend the moratorium, with Abbas since saying that he would reserve a final decision on Palestinian involvement in the peace talks until after he confers with Arab foreign ministers.


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