April 28, 2010 - 12:00am

A Palestinian official on Wednesday said it was still early to start indirect peace talks with Israel which the United States had offered.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is still talking with Washington over its proposal. When the talks complete, Erekat said, the PNA will brief the Arab League (AL) on their results to make a decision.

Last month, the AL and the PNA had approved the U.S. proposal, but Israel's announcement of building 1,600 houses for Jews in disputed East Jerusalem made the Palestinians balk at going ahead.

The AL's committee of Arab foreign ministers will meet Saturday and President Mahmoud Abbas will attend the meeting, Erekat said.

Erekat's remarks came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Abbas intended to resume stalled negotiations soon.

Erekat stressed that the negotiations cannot go together with the building of the settlements. "I hope that the Israeli government choose peace instead of settlement."

The proximity indirect talks, which the U.S. had offered, were aiming at paving the way for the resumption of the direct negotiations that stopped in 2008. But Mr. Erekat said face-to- face talks can only resume after Israel ceased settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.


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