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Middle East talks in tatters as peace deadline expires No peace without defining borders: Abbas

JERUSALEM, April 29, (AFP): Washington’s deadline for reaching a peace deal expired Tuesday with the sides bitterly divided and warnings that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” if it failed to make peace with the Palestinians. As final date for the nine-month negotiation period arrived, peace hopes appeared more remote than ever with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas locked in a tactical game of fingerpointing, and US attempts to broker an extension in tatters.

After more than a year of intensive shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry who had initially hoped for a deal by April 29, Washington’s was reluctant to admit failure, acknowledging only a “pause” in the dialogue. But Israel and the Palestinians were under no illusions about the fate of the latest US-led peace effort, with analysts saying it was a case of back to square one. “We’re back to where we started,” said Jonathan Spyer, senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Centre near Tel Aviv. The Palestinians, he said, were likely to continue with their “strategy of political warfare” by seeking global recognition for their promised state, in a bid “to isolate Israel in international bodies and pressure it into making concessions.” Until a month ago, the Palestinians had suspended moves on the international front to give the talks a chance but resumed the process after Israel reneged on a commitment to release two dozen veteran prisoners.

Israel, Spyer said, was unlikely to make any sweeping gestures but merely seek to maintain the status quo by seeking to either “ignore, or reverse” the Palestinian diplomatic moves. “Don’t expect a grand strategy from Netanyahu besides seeking to blame the collapse of the current round of negotiations on Mahmud Abbas,” he told AFP. Other Israeli analysts said the collapse of the talks was a direct result of Israel’s relentless settlement construction on land which was the subject of negotiations. There can be no peace with Israel without first defining the borders of a future Palestinian state, president Mahmud Abbas said on Tuesday. “Since the creation of Israel, nobody knows what the borders are. We are determined to know our borders and theirs, without that there will be no peace,” he said as Washington’s nine-month deadline for reaching a peace deal expired, leaving the process in tatters. He has also demanded comprehensive talks on the issue of borders.

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