Israel, Palestinians agree on step toward new talks

Story highlights

  • Israel and the Palestinians say they will come up with proposals on security and territory
  • This will be a step toward renewed direct peace talks
  • Quartet envoys will meet with both sides over the next 90 days to review progress
  • Peace talks fell apart last year over the issue of Israeli settlements
Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to come forward with proposals on security and territory issues within the next three months, the European Union said, in a development that keeps alive hopes for renewed peace talks.
It comes after representatives from both sides met separately with envoys from the Middle East Quartet -- made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Jerusalem on Wednesday, an EU statement said.
Both Israel and the Palestinians expressed their readiness "to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions," the EU said, in line with a Quartet statement issued September 23.
In that statement, the Quartet called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks within a month, and set the end of 2012 as the deadline for their completion.
It also "affirmed its determination to actively and vigorously seek a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict" on the basis of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions, previous agreements between the two sides and "the roadmap," a reference to the proposed plan for Middle East peace laid out by the quartet in 2003.
The roadmap calls on each side to take a series of steps, including Palestinians undertaking "an unconditional cessation of violence" and Israel freezing "all settlement activity."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's special envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, met Quartet representatives Wednesday to discuss ways to resume direct talks with the Palestinians, without preconditions.
It was decided that the sides would coordinate on a date to resume their discussions, the Israelis said.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters in Ramallah that Palestinian officials had told Quartet members they were willing to engage in any effort to resume peace talks "provided that the Israeli side honor its commitments emanating from the roadmap, when we say Israel must stop settlement activities including in Jerusalem and accept the two state solution of 1967.
"These are not Palestinian conditions, these are Israeli obligations."
The Palestinians had passed documents concerning Israeli settlement building and the release of Palestinian prisoners to the Quartet representatives, he said.
Envoys from the Quartet will meet regularly over the next 90 days with representatives from both sides, the EU said.
The envoys reiterated the Quartet's call for Israelis and Palestinians to "refrain from provocative actions if negotiations are to be effective," the EU statement added.
Peace talks between the two sides fell apart over a year ago over disagreements on the issue of Israeli West Bank settlements.
Coming off a self-imposed 10-month halt in settlement construction, Israel said it would not renew the freeze. This led the Palestinians to quit the negotiations.
Last month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a bid for the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state, a move Israel says is premature without direct talks that address its longstanding security concerns.