Abbas demands new settlement freeze before talks continue staff

State Department working to save peace talks; Netanyahu considers extending freeze for 60 days; PA president opposes Israel presence in Jordan Valley.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that the Palestinians will not continue direct talks if building in the settlements continues, Israel Radio reported.

In a meeting with PLO figures in Jordan, Abbas demanded an official commitment to renew the building moratorium.

The PA leader reportedly claimed that the Palestinians gave all the guarantees and fulfilled all their commitments, but Israel has not taken one step towards peace.

Several senior Palestinians said the US has proposed the two-month extension of the building moratorium.

US working frantically to salvage talks

A US official close to the negotiations said Wednesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems likely to cut a deal to keep the talks going. Palestinian officials said much the same, and Israeli officials said Netanyahu does not want talks to founder.

All spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are closed and no decisions have been made. All the parties have previously said they want to continue negotiations, but the talks remain in limbo.

The White House is working furiously, applying pressure, floating proposals and making promises to both sides, before a Friday gathering of Arab leaders whose backing the Palestinians need in order to go forward.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Wednesday with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who represents the “Quartet” of international Mideast peacemakers, to try to find a solution. On Tuesday she spoke with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

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