3 Oct 2010

No direct talks without settlement freeze - PLO

7:24 am on 3 October 2010

The Palestinian leadership says direct negotiations with Israel will not resume until it halts the building of settlements on occupied land.

US-backed peace talks, launched a month ago, were plunged into crisis this week by the end of a 10-month Israeli moratorium on new settlement building in the West Bank.

Israel has said it will not extend the construction freeze, which it had carried out under US pressure.

After a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive, senior official Yasser Abed Rabbo said the resumption of talks required tangible steps, the first of them a freeze on settlements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have held three rounds of face-to-face negotiations since 2 September.

Mr Abbas had said he would pull out of direct talks if Israel did not extend the freeze. The PLO statement said the Palestinians would discuss their next steps with the Arab League's peace process committee at a meeting on 8 October, in Libya.

Palestinians say the growth of the settlements, on land Israel has occupied since 1967, will render impossible the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the stated goal of the peace talks.

About 500,000 Jews have settled on territory where the Palestinians hope to establish their state with East Jerusalem as its capital.