PA foreign minister rejects Quartet statement 25Sep11 September 25, 2011

Ma’an News Agency  -  24 September 2011

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki on Saturday rejected a statement by world powers calling for negotiations to resume within one month.

The Quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations acted after President Mahmoud Abbas formally submitted his request to the United Nations for Palestine to be admitted as a full member.

In a statement released Friday, the Quartet called on Palestinians and Israel to resume direct peace talks within a month and commit to seeking a deal by the end of 2012.

Speaking to the official Voice of Palestine radio, al-Malki criticized the Quartet’s failure to call for a settlement freeze or the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian land occupied in 1967.

The only new proposal offered by the Quartet was a time limit for discussing security and borders, he added.

Meanwhile, al-Malki said the UN Security Council would discuss Abbas’ request for full UN membership on Monday. He said Palestinian leaders were continuing in their efforts to convince Security Council members Nigeria, Gabon, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to support the bid.

The US has vowed to veto full Palestinian membership of the UN, insisting that Palestinian statehood can only be achieved by negotiations with Israel.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged both parties “to take advantage of this opportunity to get back to talks,” talking to reporters after talks with her Quartet partners on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

A senior Israeli official told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity that his side was “currently studying the statement. We are ready to resume the negotiations.”

PLO official Saeb Erakat meanwhile urged Israel to “seize” the Quartet offer, saying the PLO was “ready to assume our responsibilities” based on a previous Quartet blueprint and international law.

“But Israel needs to assume its own and end settlement activity” in the occupied West Bank, he added.

Urging both sides only to “refrain from provocative actions,” the Quartet statement did not explicitly call for a halt to Israeli settlements, which the PLO has set as a condition for resuming talks.

Nor did it clearly call for a Palestinian state based on the boundaries that existed before the 1967 war — which would fulfill the Palestinian desire for a state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.

However, it reaffirmed the Quartet’s support for US President Barack Obama’s “vision” of peace, which called for a deal along the pre-1967 boundaries, albeit with land swaps to allow for Israel to keep some settlements.

The statement set down a broad timetable for negotiations.

“Within a month there will be a preparatory meeting between the parties to agree an agenda and method of proceeding in the negotiation,” it said.

“At that meeting there will be a commitment by both sides that the objective of any negotiation is to reach an agreement within a timeframe agreed to by the parties but not longer than the end of 2012.”

Israelis and Palestinians must then produce “comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security,” and they should achieve “substantial progress” within six months, it said.

The Quartet will convene an international conference in Moscow, “at an appropriate time,” aimed at giving a boost to tackling those final status issues.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been discussing Israeli security arrangements for the West Bank with US administration officials, a source close to the talks said.

The four powers also set forth plans for an international donors conference to provide “full and sustained support to the Palestinian Authority” to help it build the institutions for a state.

The statement by the Quartet, whose envoys met intensively all week, emerged following talks involving Clinton, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

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