Israel accepts Quartet call for peace talks


Israel accepted on Sunday a call by international mediators to resume peace talks with the Palestinians and urged President Mahmoud Abbas to do the same rather than pursue a UN bid for statehood recognition. “Israel welcomes the Quartet call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions,” the statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said. The Quartet – the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations – responded to Abbas’s application for full Palestinian membership at the UN on September 23 by urging both sides to resume talks within a month. Abbas has said he would not hold negotiations with Israel again until it halts settlement building in the occupied West Bank, which the Palestinians want as part of a future state that includes the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as its capital. Complicating international efforts to resume talks that collapsed a year ago over the settlement issue, Israel announced plans last Tuesday to build 1,100 new homes in Gilo, on annexed land near Jerusalem. In its statement, released after Netanyahu consulted with senior cabinet ministers, Israel said it has “some concerns” about the Quartet’s plan, but gave no details. “Israel calls on the Palestinian Authority to do the same and to enter into direct negotiations without delay,” said the statement. There has been no formal Palestinian response to the Quartet’s initiative, which includes a call to both sides not to take unilateral actions that could pre-empt the outcome of peace talks.