Palestinians welcome Quartet statement on peace talks

By Tom Perry

JERICHO, West Bank (BestGrowthStock) – Palestinian leaders on Friday welcomed a Middle East Quartet invitation to direct peace talks with Israel next month and thought it possible to achieve a deal in less than a year, a senior official said.

The statement — issued in New York in the name of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations — “contains the elements needed to provide for a peace agreement,” Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, told Reuters.

He had no immediate comment on a simultaneous invitation to launch the talks issued in Washington by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which said the talks should begin on September 2 without preconditions.

Erekat said he hoped the Quartet would continue to press Israel to halt Jewish settlement building in occupied land, as its past statements have demanded.

“We hope that the American administration and other Quartet members will work to make Israel refrain from settlement activities … and turn the words (of the Quartet statement) into deeds,” Erekat said.

“It can be done in less than a year,” he said of the renewed talks. “The most important thing now is to see to it that the Israeli government refrains from settlement activities, incursions, fait accomplish policies.”

Separately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the U.S. invitation saying as far as he was concerned — and in the words of Clinton — the talks would be held “without preconditions.”

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

Palestinians welcome Quartet statement on peace talks