'Secret peace talks nixed in wake of Quartet plan'

Peres says in 'Alsharq Alawsat' interview that behind-the-scenes talks with Abbas may continue in mid-January.

President Shimon Peres_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
President Shimon Peres_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Efforts to advance the peace process in behind-the-scenes meetings between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were halted to give a chance to the new Quartet peace proposal to succeed, President Shimon Peres said in an interview with the pan-Arabic daily Alsharq Alawsat published on Friday.
Peres said in the interview that his meetings with PA President Mahmoud Abbas had been in full coordination with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He surmised that this diplomatic channel, put on hold in September when the Quartet announced its new plan to advance the peace process, may continue in two weeks time when the Quartet proposal is set to expire.
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A PA official said in August that Peres and Abbas had met four times secretly in Amman and London, but that  Netanyahu thwarted the diplomatic channel. Peres denied that the diplomatic channel with Abbas was halted at Netanyahu's urging.
The Quartet issued a framework for getting back to talks on September 23 when Abbas went to the UN to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state. That framework called for an initial meeting between the two sides within 30 days, leading to the trading of comprehensive proposals on security and territory within three months, and an overall agreement by the end of 2012. Peres said that Netanyahu wanted to give the Quartet proposal a chance, and therefore he ceased his meetings with Abbas.
The Quartet plan has failed to bear fruit and  Peres told Asharq Alawsat that his channel with Abbas may resume after the Quartet deadline passes on January 14.
The president said that he does not believe that indirect contact between Israel and the Palestinians, mediated by the Quartet, can serve as a substitute for direct talks between the sides.
Peres said that communication with the PA was not completely cut off, but it was seriously slowed in the wake of the Quartet proposal. He said that behind-the-scenes talks would increase after the Quartet deadline passes.
Peres stated that Netanayhu wants peace, but does not have as much faith as he does that negotiations between the sides can succeed.
"He has different considerations to make within his coalition, but he knows that there is no substitute for peace. Peace brings prosperity," the president stated.