Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York in September 2009. Photo by Reuters
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Egypt says it has received U.S. assurances that may help restart direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

Egyptian Presidential spokesman Suleiman Awwad said Wednesday that U.S. President Barack Obama has "committed to exerting efforts toward direct peace talks with a two-state solution which we hope will continue and yield an Arab and international consensus on talks."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he won't negotiate directly with Israel unless it agrees to recognize its 1967 frontier as a basis for the borders of a future state, and freezes settlement activities.

However, Israel said Abbas has laid down "impossible" conditions for moving to direct peace talks, according to French news agency AFP, which earlier Wednesday quoted Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom.

"The Palestinians have set three impossible conditions: that the negotiations start from the point they left off at the end of 2008 when Ehud Olmert was prime minister, that they be based on a total Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and that the freeze of [settlement] construction continue," Shalom was quoted as saying.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wants to begin direct talks with the Palestinians immediately, but the Palestinians have demanded certain guarantees they say are necessary to ensure that these talks succeed where past rounds have failed.

Abbas is expected to tell the Arab League on Thursday that indirect talks with Israel have not progressed enough to justify face-to-face peace negotiations, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

"Abbas will tell them that, until this moment, there is nothing to convince us to go to direct talks," the official told Reuters. "There is nothing new."

Resisting U.S. pressure, the Palestinian leader has said he first wants indirect talks to make progress, specifically on the issues of the security and borders of a Palestinian state he aims to found on land occupied by Israel since 1967.

He will brief the Arab League's peace process committee in Cairo on Thursday on the state of the current U.S.-mediated indirect talks that began in May after the forum's approval of a four-month timeframe, due to end in September.

U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, last met Abbas on July 17 in Ramallah. Palestinian officials said that at that session, Abbas turned down a U.S. request to begin direct negotiations.

But the Palestinian official said: "We will tell the Arabs that the Americans brought nothing with them. We will most likely continue the remaining two months [of indirect talks] and see what happens."
Meanwhile, Hamas and eight other Damascus-based Palestinian groups are urging the Palestinian Authority not to resume direct talks with Israel.

The groups said in a statement Wednesday that direct talks would hurt the Palestinian cause in light of Israel's continuing policy of aggression, settlements building and blockade of Gaza Strip.