Merkel presses Abbas to negotiate with Israel: spokesman

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday pressed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to accept a Middle East Quartet proposal to open negotiations with Israel to resolve the conflict by the end of next year.

Merkel "spoke by telephone with Abbas, insisting on opening negotiations with Israel on the basis of the Quartet's proposal", a spokesman for the German leader said.

The Quartet, comprising the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, proposed on Friday to both sides that they resume peace talks with the goal of reaching an accord by the end of 2012.

It came after Abbas presented a historic request for full membership of a Palestinian state to the United Nations, which is now being reviewed by the UN Security Council.

On his return to the Palestinian territory, Abbas reiterated Sunday that he would not negotiate with Israel without a "complete" freeze of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The Quartet's proposal, being reviewed by the Palestinians, does not specifically mention a settlement freeze, nor clearly reference a return to the 1967 borders of the two states.

© 2011 AFP

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