An offer by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume direct peace talks without preconditions has been rejected by the Palestinians, who insist Israel must halt settlement construction first.
Israel's latest offer for direct peace talks has been spurned by the Palestinians, who insist Jerusalem first stop building settlements and release prisoners, according to Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also said on Thursday that Abbas is ready for talks only if Israel halts settlement construction and accepts its 1967 boundaries as the basis for negotiations. Otherwise, Nabil Abu Rdeneh said, any negotiations will "waste time."
Netanyahu on Wednesday suggested starting fresh direct talks between the two sides without any preconditions. It followed an appeal by the Mideast Quartet - a group made up of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia - to resume talks which broke down in late 2010.
The Quartet, whose members met on Wednesday in Washington, expressed concern about unilateral and provocative actions, "including continued settlement activity," but called negotiations "the only way to a just and durable solution to the conflict."
They also welcomed a meeting planned for next Tuesday between Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Netanyahu. It would be the first high-level meeting since January. Netanyahu's office said Fayyad would deliver a letter from Abbas to the Israeli premier outlining his view on the peace process and how to proceed.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, territories also claimed by the Palestinians, in 1967.
ng/ncy (AP, dpa)