Israel considering ways of strengthening Palestinian leader Abbas
Jerusalem - Israel is considering ways of strengthening Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and may agree to begin talks on a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than negotiate an interim agreement, Israel Radio reported Saturday.
Quoting an unnamed senior official, the radio said Israel was examining allowing more freedom of movement to Palestinians in the West Bank, removing roadblocks, and allowing increased municipal building in Ramallah.
The official said Abbas in interested in beginning talks on a permanent solution to the conflict, and not to returning to negotiating further interim agreements, and it was possible that Israel would agreed to part of this approach.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were suspended late last year, as Israel entered an election campaign. They talks have not been renewed, despite efforts by the US to get them going again.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is keen to begin negotiations, but Abbas refuses unless Israel agrees to halt all construction in West Bank settlements.
Netanyahu refused, saying that while Israel will build no new settlements, construction will go ahead in existing ones to accommodate population expansion, so-called "natural growth."
Although reports have indicated that Israel is prepared to go ahead with a temporary construction freeze, US envoy George Mitchell has been unable to bring the sides together to the point where both agree to renew the peace talks. (dpa)