Israel hopes for fast restart of peace talks

iol pic wld Benjamin Netanyahu REUTERS Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel hopes for a rapid restart of peace talks with the Palestinians, a senior Israeli official said on Monday, in response to a call by the Middle East Quartet for the parties to meet “in the coming days.”

“We are ready for talks with all the core issues (of the conflict) on the table,” Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told reporters in Tel Aviv.

He said both sides needed to “show creativity” in their negotiations, but said the Palestinians have raised pre-conditions, such as the demand Israeli first freeze construction at its West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem.

“The Palestinians are not ready for a package of give and take,” Regev accused.

“The challenge we face in negotiations is to try and find a way that legitimate Palestinian demands can coexist with Israel's security demands,” he said.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke off just over one year ago, when Netanyahu refused to extend a limited and partial freeze on West Bank construction.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted that the talks cannot be restarted until and unless Israel renews the moratorium, and expands it to include East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

The Palestinians also insist that Netanyahu recognise the de facto boundaries between the West Bank and Israel before the 1967 war as the basis for talks on the borders, albeit with mutually-agreed land swaps.

While Netanyahu says the borders Israel had until the 1967 are indefensible, Regev said that Israel was ready to be flexible and added that the Premier has expressed willingness “language on borders that is difficult for us.”

The Middle East quartet – US, Russia, the UN and the EU – have been trying to find a formula which would enable the sides to begin negotiating again.

The efforts have taken on a new urgency since September 23, when Abbas appealed to have the UN Security Council accept Palestinian membership of the world body – in effect recognising Palestinian statehood.

Israel and the US opposed Abbas' move, saying a Palestinian state can only come about via direct negotiations, and Washington said it would veto the request when it comes for a vote before the Council.

A Quartet proposal after Abbas' UN appeal called on both parties to commit to a meeting to be held no later than October 23, with the objectives of reaching an agreement by the end of 2012, coming up with concrete ideas on borders and security within 90 days and making “substantial progress” within six months.

Abbas welcomed the Quartet proposal, but said the Palestinian conditions for renewing the talks remain in place. Israel also accepted the proposal, but with reservations.

Regev would not be drawn in his briefing on Monday as to what Israel's concerns were, except to say that they were “not an obstacle” and Israel hoped to raise them “as we move forward.” – Sapa-dpa


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