July 29, 2010 - 12:00am

A Palestinian official said on Wednesday it is the Palestinians who decide to go to direct talks with Israel or not.

"This is a sheer Palestinian decision," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio. "It's the Palestinian leadership who decides on peace-related issues."

Erekat's comments came a day before the 13-member Arab Peace Initiative follow-up committee meets in Cairo to discuss the United States' calls to start direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Washington and Israel asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resume face-to-face negotiations even before the end of U.S.- brokered four-month indirect proximity talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis that started in May.

Direct talks came at a halt in 2008 when Israel launched a major offensive on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to halt home-made rocket attacks at Israel.

Meanwhile, Erekat stressed that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is not against jumping to direct discussions, but "we need to ensure the success of these talks."

"Key to direct talks is in the hands of Israeli government," he said. "Israel has to stop settlement construction and recognize the pre-1967 borders for a future Palestinian state."


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