PA Officials: Israel's Mideast Peace Calls Useless Without Settlement Freeze

Following Netanyahu's acceptance of Quartet peace talks blueprint, chief Abbas aide says Israel has to commit to international resolutions on settlement building, 1967 borders.

Israel's acceptance of a roadmap for peace by the Quartet on the Middle East is meaningless unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu freezes all settlement construction and recognizes 1967 borders, Palestinian officials said on Sunday.

Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu and his eight senior cabinet ministers decided to support the Quartet's plan for renewing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within a month without preconditions.

abbas - Reuters - October 2 2011

"Israel welcomes the Quartet's call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions," Netanyahu's bureau said in a statement.

The statement added that Israel has a few concerns about the Quartet's plan which it will bring up during the negotiations.

"Israel calls on the Palestinian Authority to do the same and to enter into direct negotiations without delay," the statement said.

However, speaking with Palestinian news agency WAFA on Sunday, Nabil Abu Rudeinah, chief aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said that Israel had to freeze settlement construction and recognize 1967 borders for talks to resume.

"[R]eturning to negotiations requires the commitment of Israel to halt settlement activities and to recognize the 1967 borders without any equivocation or any attempts to avoid the international resolutions,” Abu Rudeinah said.

"If Israel is serious, it has to commit without any reservations to the international resolutions as stated in the road map, the resolutions of the United Nations and the Arab peace initiative," he added.

Also commenting on Israel's announcement on Sunday, Palestinian official Saeb Erakat told the French AFP news agency that Netanyahu's statement was an "an exercise in deceiving the international community."

"If he accepts the Quartet statement then he must announce a halt to settlement activity, including natural growth, and accept the principle of the 1967 borders because this is what was clearly demanded by the Quartet statement."

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, PLO committee member Abbas Zaki said it was "unacceptable to let ourselves down while the whole world is supporting us."

"The world supports a stop to settlements, because settlements and peace are two parallel lines that do not meet," Zaki said.

"So if (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu goes on, that means that he had executed the idea of two-state solution. Therefore we, as well as all the nations, understand that Israel is the one who is responsible for the instability in the Middle East," he added.

The Quartet plan, presented two weeks ago at UN Headquarters in New York by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, calls 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.

Israeli government officials said they believed PA President Mahmoud Abbas will prefer to see his statehood bid through in the UN rather than renewing dialogue with Israel.