10 May 2010

Indirect peace talks begin between Israel and Palestinians

6:02 am on 10 May 2010

Indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have begun.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed the process after a meeting between the United States Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The talks began a day after receiving the backing of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

The BBC reports Mr Mitchell will now shuttle between the two sides, with hopes that direct talks can start within four months.

He has already held several meetings with Mr Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past week.

The start of indirect talks in March was halted by an announcement that Israel would build more new housing in East Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu said on Sunday that he hoped the indirect talks would quickly move to direct negotiations.

Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967.

Nearly half a million israelis live in more than 100 settlements in the West Bank. The BBC reports the settlements are illegal under international law.