PLO convenes to discuss peace talks with Israel

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The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) convened today and was expected to approve indirect peace talks with Israel, clearing the way for the first negotiations in 18 months.

The PLO executive committee, meeting in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would approve a US proposal for indirect talks which will be mediated by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, committee members said.

The United States has sought to revive the peace process, calling the Middle East conflict a "vital national security interest". However many doubt whether the latest US effort can succeed where years of diplomacy have failed.

The United States proposed the indirect talks as a way to break an impasse over Jewish settlement construction on Israeli-occupied land where the Palestinians aim to establish a state alongside Israel.

The United States said last week it expected the indirect negotiations, known as "proximity talks", to move forward before Mitchell's departure from the region, scheduled for tomorrow.

Mitchell is set to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later today.

"The (PLO) executive committee will approve proximity talks but we are against it," said committee member Bassem al-Salhi of the People's Party. The PLO is dominated by the Fatah faction led by Abbas. The Arab League last week approved four months of indirect negotiations.