Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel on Sunday said the Palestinian Authority (PA) was to blame for rejecting a call to hold face-to-face peace talks with Israeli officials when representatives of the Quartet visit the region later this week.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was quoted by Reuters as having said Israel had renewed an offer to hold direct talks with the PA ahead of Wednesday’s visit by Quartet envoys, but added that Israel has learned that senior PA official and veteran negotiator Saeb Erekat “has refused.”

Reuters quoted Regev as having said Israel was “disappointed” by the PA’s decision, saying it was “frustrating that the Palestinian side repeatedly refuses to engage in peace talks directly with Israel.”

The report noted Erekat could not be reached for comment to confirm the refusal.

When Quartet mediators arrive in the region they will again meet separately with the PA and Israel in Jerusalem, but officials admitted last week there is “little hope of even restarting direct negotiations, let alone reaching a breakthrough on a two-state peace agreement.”

The Quartet – which comprises the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia – presented a timetable for talks between the two sides in September, right after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas submitted his unilateral statehood bid to the United Nations.

The timetable calls for comprehensive proposals within three months on issues of territory and security, and substantial progress within six months. A peace agreement would be reached by the end of 2012.

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