The Palestinian Authority on Sunday announced that indirect US-hosted peace negotiations with Israel had begun after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his top aides met with visiting US envoy George Mitchell.
"I can officially declare today that the proximity talks have begun," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters following the meeting.
Earlier in the day, Erekat insisted that the talks would pick up where negotiations with the previous Israeli government under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had left off. Olmert is widely believed to have offered to divide Jerusalem and surrender nearly all of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians.
On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Palestinian Authority for finally resuming some sort of negotiating, but was adamant that no real progress could be made until the two sides engage in direct talks.
Netanyahu has been offering to restart direct peace negotiations for months, but has met with Palestinian refusal. The Palestinians, nevertheless, blame Netanyahu for the lack of progress due to what they call his extreme demands, such as having the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
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