Arab League to Meet Next Week to Decide Whether Israel-Palestinian Talks Should Continue

Abbas indicates that direct negotiations won't necessarily be suspended immediately after the construction freeze ends on Sunday night.

The Arab League's monitoring committee will meet on October 4 to discuss whether direct Israel-Palestinian peace talks should continue after Israel's temporary construction freeze in the West Bank comes to an end.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly urged to remain in the negotiations, appeared to indicate the talks would not be suspended immediately after the moratorium expired at midnight on Sunday.

Arab League meeting in Cairo

The Palestinian leader has in the last few weeks declared that he would refuse to continue the talks unless Israel expired its construction freeze.

Asked in an interview published Sunday with the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat, whether he would declare an end to the negotiations if the freeze did not continue, Abbas said:

"No, we will go back to the Palestinian institutions, to the Arab follow-up committee."

He was referring in the interview,conducted on Friday and published on Sunday, to the Arab League forum that gave him the go-ahead to pursue direct peace talks with Israel.

Abbas also told the newspaper that even if the recently re-launched direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were to break down, his people would not resort to violence.

"We tried the intifada (uprising), and it caused us a lot of damage," Abbas said in the interview with the London-based Arabic language daily.

The Palestinian leader also addressed the Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, saying that "this definition is being used by the Israelis to get rid of all the Arabs in their vicinity."

In regard to the Israeli settlement freeze, Abbas said that "we have yet to receive word on what the Israeli move will be. We will make a decision in response to developments on the ground."

Abbas has said repeatedly that he would abandon peace talks if Israel were to resume the construction in the West Bank settlements.

Attempts to find a compromise between the sides have failed so far. Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that Israel must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements.