Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama Photo by Archive
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The U.S. States Department said Saturday that reports that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama threatened to cut off ties with the Palestinians unless they entered direct talks with Israel bordered on "absurdity."

The United States encourages the talks, it does not threaten, an official said. The White House source told Haaretz that the claim made by Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was "not true."

According Ashrawi, the United States threatened to break off ties with the Palestinian Authority unless its leader, Mahmoud Abbas agreed to return to face-to-face peace negotiations with Israel.

He said the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama had ramped up pressure on Abbas' Palestinian Authority to move from American-mediated talks to direct negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"There has been huge pressure on the Palestinian Authority to move to direct talks," Ashrawi said in an interview with al-Quds al-Arabi, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London.

"They even threatened to isolate the Palestinians and cut off relations," she was quoted as saying.

Abbas has so far resisted calls from Israel and the international community to sit down opposite Netanyahu. But on Thursday the Arab League appeared to undermine his position, voting in favor of direct talks.

Talks made a tentative restart in May after a 15-month breakdown following Israel's two-week invasion of Gaza in December 2009 and January 2010 but have so far showed little progress.

The Palestinian government has so far insisted on seeing some "progress" from the Israeli side before moving to direct talks.

The Israeli government, the U.S. and the European Union have all expressed their desire that direct talks get under way "immediately".