Quartet to Invite Israel, PA to Brussels
The Quartet for Middle East Peace is expected to invite negotiators from Israel and the Palestinian Authority to Brussels in the "coming days," the Associated Press reported Sunday.
After Sunday's meeting Quartet spokesman Tony Blair told reporters, "We look forward to meeting with the parties shortly. This provides us with the opportunity to explore grounds for revived negotiations to take place."
The four-member diplomatic Quartet -- the European Union, Russia, United States and United Nations -- proposed on Sept. 23 a return to talks within 30 days, proposals on substantive issues in three months and a peace deal by the end of 2012.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the group would be "contacting the Parties to invite them to meet in the coming days."
"I believe we have made good progress and will keep in close contact with Quartet partners and colleagues in the region with a view to meet and move things forward," her office quoted her as saying in a statement released after Sunday's meeting.
The Quartet aired its plan to jump-start stalled talks between officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah in hopes of forestalling a unilateral move by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas to seek a declaration of statehood by the United Nation's based on 1967-lines without consulting Israel on its own future.
But PA officials were quick to deride the plan saying it did not incorporate their preconditions for talks, including a renewed Israeli building freeze in the 'disputed territories.'
"The Palestinian leadership stresses clearly that it cannot accept holding negotiations that lack the minimum limits of responsibility and seriousness amid the continuation of settlements and stealing of land," PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said at the time.
But Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Abbas, went so far on Monday as to add a precondition for the PA's acceptance of the Quartet plan.
"If Israel recognizes the 1967 borders and freezes settlements, we are ready to go immediately," he told the PA's semi-official Maan news agency.
Previously, Israel did suspend construction in the 'disputed territories' for 10 months in a failed bid to bring PA officials back to the negotiating table, only new preconditions were added at every turn. Israeli officials say, as a result, there will be no new freeze and talks should resume without preconditions from either side.
Israel has accepted the Quartet proposal as a basis for negotiations saying "any reservations" they have can be addressed during talks - as can any reservations held by PA officials.
Israeli officials refused to comment on the planned Quartet invitation, reiterating Israel was ready to talk insofar as no preconditions were attached.