Closed-door negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at forging a peace deal by a September deadline are to be moved from Stockholm, an Israeli government official said Tuesday.
"The talks are not going to be in Stockholm," the official told AFP, without disclosing where they would be held or when they would resume.
Palestinian press reports said Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had asked Israeli and US officials to move the negotiations from the Swedish capital to the Middle East so negotiators could be closer to their leaders.
However, top Arafat aide Nabil Abu Rudeina said: "The Palestinian Authority has not yet decided to go back to the Stockholm talks," and called on the United States to intervene to help negotiations.
"The Israeli negotiators have gone back to a policy of time-wasting and the latest talks did not yield any results," Abu Rudeina told AFP in Gaza.
But Israeli Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben Ami, who is representing his government in Stockholm, said Monday that talks had been making progress before they broke up nine days ago.
The Stockholm talks were made public in mid-May after the two sides missed a second deadline for a framework peace accord. Prime Minister Ehud Barak recalled Ben Ami on May 21 after an explosion of deadly violence in the Palestinian territories.
Israel and the Palestinians have set themselves a September deadline for a deal on the core issues in the conflict, including the future borders of a Palestinian state, control of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Tuesday to discuss the release of prisoners, further transfers of West Bank land and the opening of a second safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat denied a report in Israel's Haaretz newspaper that the two sides had already reached an agreement on the location of the northern safe passage route.
"That has no basis of truth," he told AFP.
Scores of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have been on a hunger strike since the beginning of May to demand Israel release them, and demonstrations in support of the inmates deteriorated into a week of rioting and gunbattles in the territories in mid-May.
Since an interim peace accord signed last September, Israel has released almost 400 prisoners, but the Palestinians are demanding the release of some 1,600 inmates remaining in Israeli jails – OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (AFP)
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