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Abbas Meets in London With Israeli Negotiator

JERUSALEM — President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority met Thursday in London with Israel’s justice minister, Tzipi Livni, the first known face-to-face talks between the two sides since the American-brokered peace negotiations collapsed last month.

Ms. Livni, one of Israel’s two chief peace negotiators, and Mr. Abbas had each met separately in London with Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the breakdown of the talks and the prospects for moving forward. A senior State Department official said that Mr. Kerry had made clear to both “that while the door remains opened to peace, the parties must determine whether they are willing to take the steps necessary to resume negotiations.”

Ms. Livni emphasized in the meeting with Mr. Abbas the gravity with which Israel sees the reconciliation pact that his Palestine Liberation Organization signed on April 23 with Hamas, the militant Islamic faction that rules the Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported Friday night. Ms. Livni was one of the cabinet ministers who voted unanimously to suspend the peace talks the day after the deal, and she and other Israeli officials have stressed that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government “backed by Hamas.”

Mr. Abbas, who is expected to announce a new government of professionals unaffiliated with political factions by May 28, has stated repeatedly that the government would recognize Israel and renounce violence, though Hamas leaders have made clear that they would not do the same. Mr. Abbas and other Palestinian leaders have said they remain open to resuming peace talks if Israel freezes construction in West Bank settlements for three months and agrees to spend the time discussing the borders of two future states.

The London meeting, which was first reported by Israel’s Channel 2 News, was held as tensions on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians increased. After two young Palestinian men were killed Thursday by Israeli security forces during a demonstration commemorating the Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe,” and the word used to describe Israel’s destruction of Palestinian villages as it became a state in 1948 — two Israeli journalists said they were nearly “lynched” by a Palestinian mob.

Avi Issacharoff, a well-known columnist who covers Palestinian affairs, said he and a cameraman were in the West Bank town of Beitunia covering the fallout from Thursday’s killings there when they were attacked by a group of masked men. He said the pair were kicked and beaten before being saved by Palestinian security personnel.

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(via NY Times)