Mideast talks could resume July 30: Israeli minister

Jerusalem, July 26: Middle East peace talks could restart on July 30 in Washington, Israel's Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom said on Thursday, but stressed he was not sure.

"We hope talks will begin next week, possibly on Tuesday, but this hasn't been decided 100 per cent," he told a news conference in the West Bank city of Jericho at the inauguration of an industrial park.

"If there's no change at the last minute... I think there's a good chance talks can resume next week in Washington," he said.

Separately quoted by public radio, Shalom said he did not imagine a "scenario where the Palestinians refused to restart talks. That would be an affront to US Secretary of State John Kerry".

Kerry announced last week that Israel and the Palestinians would begin negotiating in Washington, after a three-year halt in direct talks.

On Monday, the White House said the preliminary discussions with the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat and his counterpart Israeli Justice minister Tzipi Livni could begin in the next few weeks, expressing "cautious optimism" over the chances of their success.

Israeli public radio, meanwhile, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to "urgently" introduce a bill Sunday that would require holding a referendum on any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

The public vote would also decide on any unilateral retreat from the occupied West Bank.

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