Israeli-Palestinian 'Talks' Set for Tuesday in D.C.

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat says he will attend Tuesday's resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks in Washington, announced a week ago by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom said Thursday during a visit to Jericho he expected talks would resume Tuesday, July 30, as planned. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and senior envoy Yitzhak Molcho will head the Israeli delegation.

On Monday, P.A. spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh told Reuters the P.A. had yet to receive an official invitation from Washington, but if and when it did, Erekat would go to "set the framework for future negotiations."

"If agreement is reached on those details, in line with the Palestinian demands, resuming negotiations will be announced," Rudaineh said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to limit construction in the "settlement blocks" during negotiations and release 80 long-term Arab prisoners, many convicted of murdering dozens of Israelis, as a "goodwill gesture" to the Palestinians for agreeing to meet.

In a related matter, senior PLO official Hanan Ashwari called for the release of Marwan Barghouti, former head of the Tanzim Militia, Fatah's military arm, serving five consecutive life sentences for a series of lethal terror attacks during the second intifada (2000-2004), Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported Friday.

Ashwari, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, asked the European Union to intervene on behalf of Barghouti and Ahmed Sa'dat, serving a 30-year sentence for his part in the assassination of former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi, gunned down outside of his Jerusalem hotel room in 2001.

Some say Barghouti is the people's choice to replace current President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term officially ended on January 9, 2009. Elections have been repeatedly postponed along with the elusive reconciliation between the two rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas. 

Abbas formed an emergency government in July 2007, following a bloody military coup in the Gaza Strip that left Hamas in control. The Islamist group, an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, has stayed in power since then.

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