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Palestinians will leave peace talks over freeze

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinians will withdraw from peace talks with Israel if construction in the settlements resumes, Mahmoud Abbas told the Mideast Quartet.

In a letter delivered Sunday to representatives of the Quartet grouping of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, which guides the Middle East peace process, the Palestinian Authority president said that if the settlement building freeze ends as scheduled on Sept. 26 then the Palestinian Authority will withdraw from the direct peace talks scheduled to be launched Sept. 2 in Washington.

Abbas called on the Quartet to follow previous resolutions dealing with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, including the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, the 2002 road map to peace and the Arab Peace Initiative, all of which call for an end to settlement construction.  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud Party ministers on Sunday that the freeze would end as scheduled.

Meanwhile, Hamas canceled reconciliation talks with Abbas’ Fatah party over the weekend due to the announcement of direct negotiations with Israel. The groups have remained split since Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

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