CAIRO (AFP) – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas held consultations on Wednesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak days before the expected resumption of Palestinian-Israeli indirect peace talks.
The meeting came two days after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Egypt for talks with Mubarak and as US Middle East envoy George Mitchell was in the region to re-launch the indirect peace negotiations.
Abbas and Mubarak discussed “preparing suitable conditions” for the indirect talks, the Egyptian official news agency MENA reported.
Mitchell, who arrived in the region on Monday, was expected to meet with Netanyahu later Wednesday and Abbas on Friday, with the indirect talks widely expected to start shortly afterwards.
However, Abbas on Tuesday expressed doubts about the planned launch of talks after a West Bank mosque went up in flames, for which he blamed Jewish settlers.
Abbas has refused to directly negotiate with Israel until it ends settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which Israel conquered and annexed in 1967 and Palestinians want as a capital for a future state.
He was set to begin indirect US-brokered talks with Israel in March, but the plan was scuttled after Israel announced it would build 1,600 new homes for settlers in east Jerusalem.
Israel has offered to restrict settlement construction in the West Bank, but not in east Jerusalem.
The Arab League on Saturday backed the indirect talks after the Palestinians said they received US guarantees. The PLO is expected to endorse the talks on Saturday.
An Arab League official said Washington assured the Palestinians that Israel would not go through with its plan to build the new homes in east Jerusalem.
Direct Palestinian-Israeli peace talks broke off in December 2008 when the Jewish state launched a devastating war in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire.