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Middle East

No talks with Israel until settlements halted, Abbas tells welcoming crowds

media A Palestinian boy holds a flag out to Palestinian security force members … Reuters/Darren Whiteside

The Palestinians will not talk to the Israelis until Jewish settlements on the West Bank are halted, President Mahmud Abbas told thousands of cheering Palestinians who welcomed him at his Ramallah headquarters on Sunday on his return from the UN.

"There will be no negotiations without international legitimacy and a complete halt to settlements," Abbas told the crowd.

He is reported to have received a major boost to his flagging popularity by Friday’s call on the international body to recognise a Palestinian state.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

State-run television, Abbas’s Fatah party, unions and the campaign that backed the membership bid all mobilised West Bank-dwellers to turn out to meet the president.

Israeli leaders on Sunday welcomed the Middle East Quartet’s plan for renewed talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “put the brakes on the Palestinian initiative, according to cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser.

"What appeared to be the threat of a diplomatic tsunami for Israel has turned out to be empty, from the Palestinian perspective," he told army radio.

"I think we should accept the proposal of the Quartet, as it includes a very positive point: the opening of negotiations without preconditions," said hard-line Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The Palestinians pulled out of talks a year ago, demanding an end to Jewish settlements on the West Bank as a condition for new negotiations.

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