Top Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed talks Monday in the Red Sea town of Eilat to try to forge a draft peace agreement in the next two weeks.
Chief Israeli negotiator Oded Eran and his Palestinian counterpart, Yasser Abed Rabbo, are leading the peace talks, which kicked off on Sunday overshadowed by a dispute over Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, AFP said.
They are due to be joined on Tuesday by US Middle East troubleshooter Dennis Ross in an effort to reach the framework agreement, outlining solutions to the key outstanding questions in the conflict, including control over Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the final borders of a future Palestinian state.
The start of the talks was delayed Sunday after Palestinians protested at reported plans by Israel to expand a large Jewish settlement outside Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, spokesman of Israeli cabinet Gadi Baltiansky was quoted by Reuters as saying that "at this stage, the Americans would not be offering bridging proposals, but would just be listening to the sides, said the Jerusalem Post Monday.
According to Baltiansky, the purpose of the current round of talks, expected to last 10 days, is to "get the sides to each show some flexibility, and thus close some gaps."
The Jerusalem Post added that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is to visit the region in six to eight weeks, giving some indication of how long the teams believe the talks will go on. The framework for the permanent-status agreement, which is the ultimate aim of the talks, was originally to have been reached by mid May, but is now expected to be completed by June.
A Palestinian negotiator said the talks may move next week to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak wants to have some influence over the talks alongside the Americans, a PA source said.
The Palestinians also hope that Mubarak can influence the Americans to pressure Israel to move ahead seriously, he added quoted by Reuters Sunday - (Agencies)
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