More time needed for Middle East talks?

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Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat (right) listens to US Secretary of State John Kerry speak to the press at the State Department in Washington on July 30, 2013. File picture: Nicholas Kamm

Beit Jala -

Efforts to reach an Israel-Palestinian peace deal may need to be extended for another year, if parties agree on key issues by the time the current round of talks wraps up in April, the chief Palestinian negotiator said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry launched nine months of direct talks between the sides in July after a three-year stalemate, and has insisted he is aiming for a full deal and not an interim agreement by April 29.

However, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the process was likely to be a lot slower.

“We are not talking about a peace treaty on the 29th of April, we are talking about a framework agreement,” Erakat told journalists in Beit Jala near Bethlehem on Wednesday.

He said the deal would “specify the borders, percentage of the (prisoner) swaps, security arrangements, Jerusalem status, refugees and then that's the skeleton. Without achieving that you cannot draft a single word of the treaty.

“Once you reach the framework agreement, between that day to reach a comprehensive treaty, on all core issues... you need six to 12 months in the best case.”

Kerry says concrete progress has been made in the latest round of peace talks, but details will remain under wraps.

The top US diplomat has made nine trips to the Middle East since March.

“I'm personally encouraged that very tough issues are beginning to take shape,” he said in an interview with ABC's This Week broadcast over the weekend.

“But we've agreed not to be talking about what we're doing because it just creates great expectations. It creates pressure. It creates opposition, in some cases.” - Sapa-AFP

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