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Mid-East peace talks finally underway

 Mid-East peace talks finally underway
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Israel and the Palestinians have begun their most serious peace talks in years, urged on by President Bush’s desire for a solution before he leaves the White House. Despite US pressure, it has been nearly seven weeks since the Annapolis peace conference, the delay underlining the obstacles still littering the path of the Road Map.

During his visit last week, the President made clear his personal desire for a breakthrough.

But Israeli MP Silvan Shalom says the problems are enormous: “Abu Mazen (President Abbas) does not represent all the Palestinian people, Hamas said very clearly that they will oppose any idea of moving forward with the Israelis. I would like the Palestinians to realise that Olmert has no mandate from his own coalition, because a major party will quit soon, and the others that are still there are totally rejecting a move forward which means a withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem.”

The talks face some intractable issues: the borders of a Palestinian state, Jewish settlements, refugees’ right of return, and the status of Jerusalem.

There’s also the problem of the split between Abbas’ Fatah faction and Hamas. The Palestinian President says he is prepared to talk, if Hamas renounce violence, but Gaza’s rulers have already rejected his overtures.