Last updated: 18 October, 2011

Netanyahu slams Palestinian refusal to hold talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deplored the Palestinians’ refusal to enter into direct peace talks with Israel at the upcoming international Quartet talks on Middle East peace.

“We welcome the efforts of the Quartet to bring about direct talks with no pre-conditions, but we deplore the fact that during the Quartet meeting scheduled for October 26 such direct negotiations won’t be taking place because of the opposition from the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued by his office.

“Only direct talks without pre-conditions can advance the peace process,” Netanyahu stressed.

Envoys of the Middle East Quartet — the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — will meet separately in Jerusalem October 26 with Israeli and Palestinian representatives as they seek a way forward on peace talks, the US State Department said Monday.

“Quartet envoys will be meeting with the parties in Jerusalem on October 26 with the aim to begin preparations and develop an agenda for proceeding with the negotiations,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington, adding afterwards that “separate” meetings would be held.

The Quartet launched an effort on September 23 to restart suspended peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, acting after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas formally submitted his request to the United Nations for Palestine to be admitted as a full member.

The Quartet stated last month that there would be a meeting “between the parties,” meaning Israelis and Palestinians sitting down face to face to hammer out an agenda and a method of proceeding in the negotiations.

However in Washington Toner insisted that the separate meetings next week are “in keeping with the spirit of the Quartet statement.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, told AFP in Ramallah that he had not been officially informed of the planned meeting.

“We have no problem with meeting individually with the Quarter,” Erakat explained, but added that there was “a problem” with direct talks with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has said it will refuse to take part in direct talks unless Israel first freeze the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, something Netanyahu refuses to do.

Two days earlier UN leader Ban Ki-moon had accused Israel of provoking the international community by approving new settlements in Palestinian territories while efforts were being made to jumpstart the peace talks.