Osama Radi
August 12, 2010 - 12:00am

A senior official revealed on Wednesday that the Palestinian leadership received a preliminary approval from the United States over a proposal that the Quartet committee for peace in the Middle East issue a statement defining a reference for direct peace talks with Israel.

Hana Amira, member of Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) executive committee, told Xinhua that U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell informed President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday that the U.S. has accepted in principle the proposal that the Quartet Committee issues the statement.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has been pushing towards the issue that the Quartet committee, which includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, is the one which defines a reference for the direct peace talks with Israel.

The PNA wants the Quartet, which will convene in September, to define a reference for the direct peace talks with Israel, which includes setting up a ceiling, an agenda and a time schedule for the talks, in addition to having the role of observing the talks.

"The proposal is still under discussion in order to put a proper vision over the Quartet's statement," said Amira, adding that the Palestinian side has not received any answer from the Israeli side on the issue. "We expect that Israel would rebuff the proposal because it is not serious in the peace talks."

The proposal was one of three proposals the Palestinians had presented to the United States in order to launch direct peace talks with Israel. Washington rebuffed two proposals and promised to consider the one related to the Quartet.

The first proposal is that U.S. President Barack Obama issues a statement that defines a reference for the direct peace talks with Israel, including guarantees, and the second proposal is to hold a three-way meeting that includes senior Israeli, Palestinian and U. S. officials. The two proposals were rejected.

Meanwhile, Yasser Abed Rabbo, PLO executive committee secretary general, had earlier on Wednesday told "Voice of Palestine" Radio in an interview that the Palestinians are in favor of the proposal that the international Quartet defines a reference for the direct peace talks with Israel.

"In case the Quartet defines the reference for the direct peace talks with Israel, it will be an observer that will treat the issues which are related to the references of the peace process and setting up a time schedule for the negotiations including the cessation of settlement," said Abed Rabbo.

The Palestinians hope that the statement of the Quartet Committee, which was issued on March 19 and called for holding talks based on halting settlement, implementing the international resolutions and on the principle of the two-state solution, would be considered by both Israel and the United States.

However, Palestinian officials and observers said that the Palestinians' choice of approving the Quartet's statement to define a reference for the peace talks and even sponsor the talks with Israel "is a clear Palestinian disappointment from the U.S. sponsorship of the peace process."

"The Palestinians consider the sole American sponsorship of the talks had reached its end," said Amira, adding that Washington "is not a mediator anymore after it had failed to pressure on Israel to halt settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, mainly in East Jerusalem."

He accused the United States of retreating from its pledges towards the requirements of the peace process, adding that the U.S. "has been only exerting pressure on the Palestinians in order to convince them to go for direct negotiations without any guarantees. "

Mekhemer Abu Se'da, the political science professor at the Gaza- based al-Azhar University, told Xinhua that the U.S. "passes through a crucial situation these days on the eve of the congress elections in November," adding "the U.S. wants to go for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians by all means."

"The U.S. may accept the proposal related to handing the Quartet a sponsorship of the talks as one of the means to encourage the Palestinians to go for direct talks with Israel, based on the vision of the two-state solution, but without having any substantial progress," said Abu Se'da.

Eyad al-Barghouti, another political analyst from the West Bank, told Xinhua that he rules out that the choice of involving the international Quartet in the direct talks would succeed in pressuring on Israel to achieve what the Palestinians want, mainly halting settlement.


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