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PLO approves talks with Israel as Mitchell meets Netanyahu

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) move to allow indirect talks with Israel clears the way for the first negotiations in more than a year ahead of Vice President Joseph Biden's arrival in the region later this week.

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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hand with U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell during their meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday. A skeptical PLO agreed Sunday to begin U.S.-mediated peace talks with Israel, effectively ending a 14-month breakdown in communications between the two sides.

Moshe Milner/AP

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The highest Palestinian political body authorized President Mahmoud Abbas to begin indirect peace talks with Israel for a four-month trial period, clearing the way for the first negotiations in more than a year ahead of Vice President Joseph Biden's arrival in the region later this week.

The decision of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee effectively drops a Palestinian precondition from last year that Israel first freeze settlement activity before renewing negotiations. The shift comes in response to international pressure on the Palestinian leadership, but runs counter to widespread skepticism in the Palestinian public and exposes Mr. Abbas and his Fatah organization to criticism from political rival, Hamas.

After months of being accused by Israel as the obstacle to negotiations, the Palestinian leadership hopes that returning to the talks will shift the pressure back onto Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for concessions, said analysts.

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