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Israel, Palestinians at loggerheads over direct talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today accused the Palestinians of evading direct peace talks as Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas stuck to his demand for border guarantees.

world Updated: Jul 26, 2010 22:21 IST

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday accused the Palestinians of evading direct peace talks as Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas stuck to his demand for border guarantees.

The latest exchange indicated a lingering gap between the two sides despite months of US shuttle diplomacy and repeated calls from President Barack Obama and other leaders for the resumption of direct talks halted in December 2008.

"We have an understanding with the Americans that we need to move now, without any delay, to direct negotiations, but in response, we have a clear Palestinian attempt to avoid this process," Netanyahu said.

"If anyone ever doubted the Palestinians' reluctance, it is now completely clear," he told the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defence, adding that Israel was ready to kick off direct talks "immediately."

"They are trying to stall and to sneak away from direct negotiations and to cause the Arab League to shackle the talks," Netanyahu added.

His remarks came just days ahead of an Arab League meeting in Cairo at which Abbas was to discuss the indirect talks with Israel, which began in May, and to consider upgrading to direct negotiations.

Abbas, who has repeatedly demanded that Israel first halt settlement construction and agree to its 1967 borders as the basis of the negotiations, denied hindering the talks.

"We are ready to hold direct peace negotiations with Israel," Abbas told reporters in Amman, adding however that they "should be held in line with a clear reference -- the 1967 borders."