Quartet dispute delays statement on direct talks

Official: "It will probably take a few more days."

Peres Ramadan (photo credit: Yosef Avi Yair Angel)
Peres Ramadan
(photo credit: Yosef Avi Yair Angel)
A statement by the Quartet that was expected to lead to long-awaited direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians has been delayed due to disputes between the United States and European Union, Israeli diplomatic sources revealed Tuesday.
The Quartet, which is made up of the US, EU, UN, and Russia, was expected to bring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the negotiating table by releasing a statement early this week about the basis for direct talks.
The United States was then set to issue its own invitation for talks without preconditions as Israel has requested. But USEU infighting has delayed both statements.
“The Quartet has not been able to come to an agreement, so its statement may only come out Thursday, Friday or possibly just next week,” a senior Israeli diplomatic official told The Jerusalem Post.
“The EU has agreed to the Palestinian stipulations of the talks leading to the creation of a Palestinian state based on pre- 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital within one year, but the Americans have not accepted these preconditions. Since they couldn’t come to terms. It will probably take a few more days,” the official said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is on a state visit to Greece, reiterated to reporters covering his meeting with Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos that “Israel wants direct talks without preconditions.”
While Netanyahu told reporters on Monday that he believed direct talks would begin very soon and his associates said they would begin by next week, President Shimon Peres delivered a more sober assessment.
He told Arab local council heads whom he hosted Tuesday for the Ramadan post-fast iftar meal that he believed direct talks would only begin following Ramadan, which ends September 8.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on a visit to Efrat in Gush Etzion on Tuesday that the 10-month construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria was a mistake and that building would resume immediately when the freeze ends September 26.
Steinitz was the 12th cabinet minister to visit Efrat in recent months and call there for the resumption of construction.
“It is not in the best interests of the Palestinians to demand preconditions for direct talks, because we can do the same thing,” Steinitz said.