The Quartet of Middle East envoys will meet separately with Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jerusalem later this month to try to lay the ground for fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Monday.
According to Toner's statement, the "Quartet envoys will be meeting with the parties in Jerusalem on October 26th and with the aim to begin preparations and develop an agenda for proceeding in the negotiations."
“I think that we're making progress. This is an important step. It's not within the timetable, it's pretty darn close, and we believe it's going to be productive and that, again, it's a stepping stone along that timetable that was laid out by the Quartet that will hopefully lead back to direct negotiations. You know, we're going to continue working along that framework,” Toner added.
Envoy David Hale will head the U.S. delegation.
The October meeting was also confirmed in a statement by Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Union's top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton.
Last month, the Quartet published a plan calling for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to renew direct talks within a month, to present proposals on borders and security within three months, and to reach a final agreement by the end of 2012.
Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's initial support for the proposal, saying he welcomed "the Quartet's call for direct negotiations without preconditions," Israeli officials reportedly intend to present a list of qualifications to the Quartet's statement on a resumption of Mideast talks.
The Palestinians have also responded positively to the Quartet's plan, and a senior Palestinian official said last month that the Middle East Quartet's proposal for renewing negotiations with Israel contained some encouraging elements, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas convened top officials to discuss the matter.
Abbas has said repeatedly in the past that the PA would accept the Quartet proposal if Israel agreed to freeze all settlement construction and recognized the 1967 lines as the basis for negotiations.
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