Abbas renews call for Israel to halt settlements

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Abbas renews call for Israel to halt settlements

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The President of the Palestinian Authority has once more called on Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank so the stalled Middle-East peace talks can get underway again.

Mahmoud Abbas had gone to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak who is playing a pivotal role in the attempt to get all sides around the table again.

But after last week’s visit to Egypt by the Israeli Prime Minister, there was no word on any concrete progress.

The Palestinian leader said: “What we have said, and we are saying again, is if Israel stops the settlements and returns to the UN initiative, we are ready to resume talks. This is still the main point, and we agreed on that with our Egyptian friends.”

Abbas and Mubarak also discussed how to reconcile the two Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, after Hamas violently took control of Gaza in 2007.

Abbas said: “We signed the Egyptian proposal for unity. Hamas have agreed to the document too, but haven’t signed it yet. We’re calling on Hamas to sign, so we can move on.”

The bitter split left the Western-backed Abbas nominally in control of the West Bank, and the Islamist Hamas group in charge of the Gaza Strip.

It has complicated peace efforts with Israel, and Egypt’s mediation is aimed at bringing them together again with new Palestinian elections.