Israeli PM rejects Palestine`s demands

Palestine demands that talks with Israel be based on a statement by Quartet.

Updated: Aug 12, 2010, 14:50 PM IST

Jerusalem: Efforts to renew direct peace talks between the two countries has hit a roadblock with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting Palestine`s demands that negotiations between them be based on a statement by the Quartet.

During a meeting yesterday with US Special Envoy for Middle East George Mitchell, Netanyahu reiterated his position that direct talks should start without preconditions, daily Ha`aretz reported.

Mitchell briefed the Israeli Premier on his meeting day before yesterday with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and presented the Palestinian proposal, the report said.

Palestinian sources told the Israeli daily that Mitchell did not dismiss Abbas` proposal, which calls for a clear framework for the resumption of direct talks and an Israeli commitment to cease construction activity in the
settlements during negotiations.

The Quartet of United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, mediating Middle East talks, had issued a statement after their meeting in Moscow on March 19 calling upon for a 24-month negotiations between Israel and the PA that would result in an agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The statement said that the founding of the Palestinian state would end the occupation that began in 1967. It had also called on Israel to institute a total freeze of construction in West Bank settlements and to refrain from Arab home demolitions in East Jerusalem.

In a surprise move, the Quartet even went on to say that the international community does not recognise Israel`s annexation of East Jerusalem in the 1967 war.

Senior officials in Jerusalem involved in efforts to renew direct peace talks told Ha`aretz that Abbas` latest formula was unacceptable to Netanyahu because it sought to impose preconditions that the Israeli public would oppose.

Mitchell told Netanyahu that Washington has not taken a position on the proposal yet, noting that his job was simply to present Abbas` offer to Israel.

The US envoy told the Israeli premier that if he were to accept the Palestinian offer, the PA President indicated to enter into direct talks immediately.

Palestinian sources reportedly said that the United States earlier rejected two proposals put forth by Abbas – first calling upon for US, Israeli and Palestinian officials to meet in order to reach agreement on a framework for direct talks, and the other requesting US President Barack Obama to issue a statement spelling out the terms of the framework.