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Palestinians say ready for direct talks with Israel

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Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye (C) speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 20, 2020. Palestine on Saturday declared a new set of restrictions after a new spike in COVID-19 infections in the country. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye announced a set of restrictions, including a five-day lockdown of the southern West Bank Hebron district, as its registered cases reached 280. (Photo by Nidal Eshtayeh/Xinhua)

RAMALLAH (AFP) – The Palestinians are prepared to renew long-stalled peace talks with Israel and to agree to “minor” territorial concessions, according to a counter-proposal to a contentious US plan.

A Palestinian Authority text sent to the international peacemaking Quartet and seen Monday by AFP, says the Palestinians are “ready to resume direct bilateral negotiations where they stopped,” in 2014.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on June 9 that the PA had drafted a response to the US proposal but did not previously mention direct talks with the Israelis.

Israel’s coalition government has set July 1 as the date from which it could initiate action on US President Donald Trump’s Middle East controversial peace proposals.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Monday however that with new coronavirus infections still on the rise, any annexation of West Bank territory must wait.

“Anything unrelated to the battle against the coronavirus will wait until after the virus,” he said. His office later clarified that he was referring specifically to the annexation plan.

The Trump proposal paves the way for Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, including Jewish settlements considered illegal under international law.

“If Israel declares the annexation of any part of the Palestinian territory, that will necessarily mean the annulation of all signed agreements,” the PA wrote in a four-page letter to the Quartet of the United Nations, United States, Russia and the European Union.

“No one has as much interest as the Palestinians in reaching a peace agreement and no one has as much to lose as the Palestinians in the absence of peace,” it said

“We are ready to have our state with a limited number of weapons and a powerful police force to uphold law and order,” it said, adding that it would accept an international force such as NATO, mandated by the UN, to monitor compliance with any eventual peace treaty.

The text also proposes “minor border changes that will have been mutually agreed, based on the borders of June 4, 1967”, when Israeli forces occupied the West Bank.

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