Peace quartet meets Israel, Palestine

2011-11-14 21:31

Jerusalem - Envoys from the international peacemaking quartet seemed to make no headway on Monday after separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinians officials in a bid to kick-start long-stalled peace talks.

After the talks, Israel extended a freeze on the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority (PA) while the Palestinians restated their demand for a halt to Jewish settlement before talks can resume.

"Envoys continued to encourage the parties to resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions," a guarded quartet statement.

They "called upon the parties to create a conducive environment for restarting talks and urged the parties to refrain from provocative actions".

A UN official said that the envoys would have another round of meetings with the two sides in December.

But Israel's security cabinet voted on Monday afternoon to maintain a freeze on the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, imposed after Palestine won Unesco membership.

"There's no change in the decision of November 1, which is for a temporary hold on the transfer of funds to the PA," an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity, after Israeli officials met the quartet envoys.

He did not say whether the tax issue would next be reviewed.

"We are disappointed that the Palestinians are not heeding the call of the quartet for a return to direct peace talks," he added.

Ready for talks

"Israel remains ready for the immediate resumption of talks without preconditions but unfortunately... they continue to raise artificial concerns that prevent the resumption of direct talks."

In a statement after their quartet meeting, the Palestinians repeated their position that talks could not resume without an Israeli settlement freeze and a framework for negotiations.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat called on Israel to accept "clear terms of reference" for any talks, including that discussions would be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War.

"We are ready to discuss all final status issues once Israel proves its seriousness and commitment by freezing all its illegal settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially in occupied east Jerusalem," Erakat said.

"We cannot understate the importance of this issue. There is no doubt about the fact that Israeli settlements and the two-state solution are mutually exclusive."

Under the terms of an economic agreement between the sides signed in Paris in 1994, Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority tens of millions of dollars each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.

The remittances constitute a large percentage of the Palestinian budget.

Israeli-Palestinian talks have been on hold for over a year, grinding to a halt shortly after they began in September 2010 over the issue of settlement construction.

The Palestinians say they will not hold negotiations while Israel builds on land it wants for a future state.

Conditions first

Israel has so far refused to renew a partial 10-month settlement freeze, which expired last year and says it will only talk if there are no pre-conditions.

The quartet, composed of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia, is trying to bring the two sides back to the table under a proposal laid out in September shortly after the Palestinians submitted a request for full UN state membership.

The proposal sought the resumption of talks within a month, with the goal of an agreement within a year, but there has been no sign of progress so far.

Quartet envoys have already held one round of separate meetings with the two sides, and Washington's envoy David Hale held talks on Sunday night with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas ahead of Monday's discussions.

"Hale offered president Abbas direct negotiations with Israel with the presence of the quartet, but president Abbas told him that he was willing on the condition that Israel halt settlement activity... and agree to the principle of a two-state solution on the 1967 borders," Erakat told AFP on Sunday night.

The Palestinians say that without such guarantees from Israel, the negotiations will simply allow the Jewish state to continue settlement construction and that talks without a clear framework will not result in a final agreement.

  • Oneant - 2011-11-14 21:59

    i think they should all just have a big, sad, long, terrible war and get it over with. its like a bunch of drunks at the pub itching to fight. so fight. get it over with.

      Jaba - 2011-11-14 22:23

      The bottom line is, if Hamas and the other political groups in the disputed regions began acting more like civilised political parties rather than terrorists with the sole aim of killing Israeli civilians (remember, if Israel had the same aim this whole issue wold have been put to bed years ago due to their military might) then Israel would not have a leg to stand on and the US and the west would have no choice but to put pressure to bear on Israel to make concessions to the now truly peaceful and democratic Palestinians. I have never and can never support any terrorist organisation who supports the killing of innocent civilians (without having a military target in sight) no matter how just they believe their cause.

      Barry - 2011-11-15 03:57

      @Jaba... The same can be said of Israel.

  • Dayaan - 2011-11-15 09:38

    The Israeli Zionist terrorists are the biggest obstacle to peace they could have had peace with the Oslo Accord but Netanyahu killed the Accord. In a 2001 video, Netanyahu, unaware he was being recorded, said: "They asked me before the election if I'd honor [the Oslo accords]... I said I would, but [that] I'm going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to it. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I'm concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue."Netanyahu then explained how he conditioned his signing of the 1997 Hebron agreement on American consent that there be no withdrawals from "specified military locations," and insisted he be allowed to specify which areas constituted a "military location" - such as the whole of the Jordan Valley. "Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo Accords," Netanyahu affirmed.

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