Quartet calls for Israel, Palestinians to resume talks
WASHINGTON - The Mideast Quartet seeking a peace settlement in the Middle East has called for Israel and the Palestinians to resume their talks on October 23 in Jordan, a US official said Tuesday.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said envoys for the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union met on Sunday and called for "a first preliminary meeting of the parties" on that date.
"And we are very hopeful that both parties will take up that offer," Nuland told reporters after announcing last week that David Hale, the US special envoy to the peace talks, would meet his Quartet counterparts in Brussels on Sunday.
The new initiative comes with the Palestinians pressing for the United Nations to admit Palestine as a member state, a move opposed by Israel and the United States in the absence of a peace settlement between the parties.
The Quartet launched a fresh bid to kick-start talks between the two sides at a meeting in New York in September.
During talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 23, the Quartet powers called for the Palestinians and Israel to resume direct peace talks within a month and commit to seeking a deal by the end of 2012.
Israel subsequently called for an immediate return to peace talks under the framework of the Quartet proposal -- a statement welcomed by the United States.
But Israel said the plan included no preconditions -- an interpretation the Palestinians quickly rejected.
The Palestinians are demanding Israel halt settlements on land where they want to build a future state.
"The Quartet, we feel, is strongly behind not only the timeline proposal that was put out in New York two weeks ago, but also the notion that if we can get these parties to the table under quartet auspices on October 23, that'll be a... good start," Nuland said.