Israeli PM discusses Quartet’s peace initiative with senior ministers

Israeli PM discusses Quartet’s peace initiative with senior ministers
# 27 September 2011 18:56 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his forum of senior ministers on Tuesday to discuss the latest Mideast Quartet initiative for resuming talks with the Palestinians, a plan that includes an ambitious 15 months deadline for striking a peace deal, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

The prime minister, who returned from a five-day visit to New York on Monday, is reportedly inclined to heed the Quartet’s call on Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table without pre-conditions.

Netanyahu, however, turned down the idea of ordering a second settlement building freeze in order to coax the Palestinians back to talks. U.S.-mediated Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed shortly after their launching in September of last year after Israel refused to extend a self-imposed 10-month moratorium on settlement building. Negotiations were not held while the moratorium was in place.

On Friday, the group, comprised of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, issued a statement calling for preliminary talks to be held within a month, proposals for future borders and security arrangements within three months, and a final-status agreement ending the conflict no later than December 2012.

The statement followed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech before the UN General Assembly in which he urged its members to support recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state.

"Israel has no pre-conditions. These are clarifications that will be relayed to the Quartet in order to assist the efforts to jump-start negotiations," a source told Xinhua on Tuesday.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday ahead of the Jewish New Year, Netanyahu said that Israel won’t declare a new settlement freeze to coax the Palestinians into accepting the Quartet’s proposal.

He claimed that the Palestinian leadership’s current insistence on a settlement freeze is an indication to its lack of desire to negotiate.

"It’s a pretext they use again and again, but I think a lot of people see it as a ruse to avoid direct negotiations," he said. As well, Israel has said that it will not negotiate with the Palestinians if a Fatah-Hamas unity government accord, reached earlier this year, goes into effect.

While Netanyahu is expected to seek the approval of his eight senior ministers for the Quartet’s proposal and to begin formulating Israel’s response, the chances for a revival of peace talks remain unclear. The Jerusalem planning committee on Tuesday greenlighted Tuesday a plan to construct 1,100 new housing units in Gilo neighborhood, which locates in eastern Jerusalem.

Abbas reiterated his demand for a settlement freeze as a pre- condition for returning to the negotiations, since his return to Ramallah from New York on Sunday. He expressed disappointment that the Quartet statement excluded a mention of an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, but promised to assemble the Palestine Liberation Organization senior leadership to discuss the proposa