WASHINGTON, July 29 (Xinhua) -- The United States said on Thursday it was encouraged that the Arab League (AL) agreed in principle on holding direct peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, although it has left it up to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to decide the starting date.
"The prime minister of Qatar, on behalf of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee, has sent a letter to the president. We will of course be evaluating the ideas contained in that letter and be consulting further," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
The letter mentioned by Crowley was sent to U.S. President Barack Obama following AL's meeting on Thursday, which outlined the Arab stance on the direct peace negotiations and the necessity of determining the time frame of the negotiations.
The U.S. has been urging the Palestinians to shift immediately from indirect talks to face-to-face negotiations with Israel, which it holds is the only sensible way to make progress.
However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has always doubted Israel's seriousness on the peace process, insisted on the necessity of progress in indirect talks before moving to direct ones.
Abbas said on the eve of the AL meeting that he will not accept direct talks until progress is achieved on security and border issues.
He also listed settlement freeze and recognition of the peace process references as conditions for direct talks.