Monday, October 01, 2007

Teams to Take Up Issues of Palestinian Statehood

Two Sides Would Prepare for U.S.-Backed Talks; Israel Cites 'Momentum to Progress'

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, September 11, 2007; A14

JERUSALEM, Sept. 10 -- Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed Monday to form negotiating teams that would begin resolving issues central to the creation of a Palestinian state in advance of a U.S.-sponsored peace conference proposed for later this year.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the working groups would "begin talking about the hard-core issues," a reference to the final borders of a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and the claim by Palestinian refugees that they have a right to return to homes in Israel.

Israeli officials said the teams were being created to reach the goal of a two-state solution.

"This is very significant," Erekat said. "It is not something we have had since 2000," a reference to the U.S.-backed peace process that collapsed in January 2001.

The announcement followed a meeting here Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Both men are under pressure from the Bush administration to devise a working agenda for the proposed conference, which will probably be held in Washington.


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