Quartet Envoy Tony Blair
Quartet Envoy Tony BlairIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Envoys from the Quartet for Middle East Peace made no headway in restarting moribund peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority after separate meetings Monday, Reuters reports.

"Envoys continued to encourage the parties to resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions," a reticent Quartet statement said.

They "called upon the parties to create a conducive environment for restarting talks and urged the parties to refrain from provocative actions."

A UN official said that the envoys -- representing the United States, European Union, United Nations, and Russia - would hold another round of meetings with the two sides in December.

Israeli officials said Monday they stand ready to resume negotiations without preconditions at any time.

"We are disappointed that the Palestinians are not heeding the call of the Quartet for a return to direct peace talks," an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman told the Associated Press.

"Israel remains ready for the immediate resumption of talks without preconditions but unfortunately... they continue to raise artificial concerns that prevent the resumption of direct talks."

PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, however, demanded Israel adopt "clear terms of reference" - meaning a building freeze in the 'disputed territories' and using the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a future PA state.

"We are ready to discuss all final status issues once Israel proves its seriousness and commitment by freezing all its illegal settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially in occupied east Jerusalem," Erakat said told AFP.

"We cannot understate the importance of this issue. There is no doubt about the fact that Israeli settlements and the two-state solution are mutually exclusive."

Israeli officials rejects the PA preconditions as grossly prejudicial and note that a previous 10-month building freeze aimed at restarting talks not only failed, but resulted in more preconditions and a unilateralist PA track.

Washington's envoy David Hale reportedly held talks on Sunday night with PA chairman Mahmud Abbas ahead of Monday's discussions.

"Hale offered president Abbas direct negotiations with Israel with the presence of the Quartet, but president Abbas told him that he was willing on the condition that Israel halt settlement activity... and agree to the principle of a two-state solution on the 1967 borders," Erakat said Sunday.