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Quartet: Direct Negotiations Without Building Freeze

Quartet statement to be released on Friday calls Israel and PA to begin direct negotiations but does not mention the building freeze.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/20/2010, 1:22 AM / Last Update: 8/20/2010, 1:18 AM

Flash 90

The Quartet is expected to publish on Friday a statement calling on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to begin direct peace negotiations.

Diplomatic sources in the US said that the statement by the Quartet (which is comprised of representatives from the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) will not mention the issue of the building freeze in east Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. The statement will say that the peace talks should end within one year.

The sources added that the statement will call for direct and two-sided negotiations that will bring an “end to the occupation” and result in a Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel. The statement will also call on Arab countries to support the negotiations in order to ensure their success.

Although the statement does not mention the building freeze, it says that the Quartet is “fully committed to its previous statements,” in which Israel was called to completely halt building.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Thursday: "We think we are very, very close to a decision by the parties to enter into direct negotiations. We think we're well positioned to get there."

Last month, the Arab League published a letter backing direct talks with Israel. The letter repeated the preconditions set by Abbas: a return to 1967 borders, an end to settlements, and the return of refugees.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and members of his close inner cabinet decided to reject any preconditions as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. A government source was quoted as saying: “The Quartet statement is a fig leaf. We would accept only an American statement that would not include preconditions.”