Palestinians rebuff Netanyahu’s call for direct peace talks (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By RAPHAEL AHREN and AP 04/12/12)
TIMES OF ISRAEL
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The Palestinians have spurned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s
latest invitation to resume peace talks, insisting Israel freeze
settlement construction first.
Netanyahu on Wednesday proposed to start direct talks with
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, without any preconditions. The
call followed an appeal from international mediators for constructive
efforts. Negotiations broke down in late 2010.
Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said on Thursday that Abbas is
ready for talks only if Israel halts settlement construction and
accepts its 1967 boundaries as the basis for negotiations. Otherwise,
he says, any negotiations will “waste time.”
The ‘Quartet’ of Mideast peacemakers appealed Wednesday for Israel
and the Palestinians to take confidence-building steps to improve the
atmosphere for negotiations.
Meeting in Washington on Wednesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon,
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergey Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also
called for the international community to help the Palestinians meet
their budget needs.
In a statement, they expressed concern about the “increasing
fragility” of the Palestinian Authority, which needs $1.1 billion in
financial aid, and called on the two sides to work together to
improve Palestinian governance and expand economic opportunities for
the Palestinian people.
Israel welcomed the Quartet’s call for direct talks without
preconditions between Israel and the Palestinians, the Prime
Minister’s Office said in a statement on Wednesday. Netanyahu, who is
scheduled to meet his Palestinian counterpart, Salam Fayyad, next
Tuesday, said he would propose to upgrade the level of the talks to
direct and speak directly with Abbas, according to the statement.
The Quartet urged both Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from
actions that could undermine trust and peace prospects. Instead it
urged them to “focus on positive efforts that can strengthen and
improve the climate for a resumption of direct negotiations.”
The Quartet condemned rocket attacks on Israel from the Hamas-
controlled Gaza Strip. And the group “expressed concern about
unilateral and provocative actions by either party, including
continued settlement activity, which cannot prejudge the outcome of
negotiations, the only way to a just and durable solution to the
Previous peace talks broke down in 2010 and, despite low-level
contacts between the two sides in Jordan in January, have not resumed.
The meeting between Netanyahu and Fayyad next week will be the
highest level talks between the sides in a year and a half. (© 2012
THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 04/12/12)
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