Israel Says 'Ready for Talks on All Core Issues' With Palestinians

Prime Minister's spokesman welcomes Quartet call to meet on peace process over coming days, says both sides must 'show creativity' in negotiations.

Israel hopes to restart peace talks with the Palestinians immediately, a senior Israeli official said Monday, a day after the Middle East Quartet called on both 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 on Monday.

He said both sides needed to "show creativity" in negotiations, but claimed that the Palestinians have added pre-conditions for talks, such as its demand that Israel freeze construction in West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem.

Regev accused the Palestinians of not being ready for "a package of give and take" .

"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.

Regevs comments come in the wake of the Middle East Quartet envoys announcement on Sunday that they would be inviting Israeli and Palestinian representatives for a first round of peace talks in the coming days, in an attempt to restart negotiations stalled since 2008.

Envoys from the Quartet - the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia - met Sunday in Brussels to hash out a strategy as international pressure to reach a peace deal mounts.

"We will be contacting the parties to invite them to meet in the coming days," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who hosted the meeting. "I believe we have made good progress and will keep in close contact with Quartet partners and colleagues in the region with view to meet and move things forward."

Mideast envoy Tony Blair said the Quartet is committed to restarting negotiations.

"Today's meeting showed the Quartet's commitment to the timetable for talks set out in our September statement," Blair said on Sunday. "We look forward to meeting with the parties shortly."

Tensions between the Palestinians and Israel have been on the rise in recent weeks, with the Palestinians requesting UN recognition as a state late last month, and Israel announcing it would build 1,100 new housing units in Jerusalem, beyond the Green Line.

Mideast Quartet - AP - Sept 21, 2010