February 6, 2011 - 1:00am

The Palestinian leadership on Sunday welcomed the Quartet of Middle East negotiators to engage in reviving Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

The Quartet's call for separate discussions between its members and the concerned parties in the Middle East "is an unprecedented development that cannot be bypassed," said Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator.

The Quartet, which comprises the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, made the call following its meeting in Munich, Germany, on Saturday.

The discussions with the Quartet will not be seen as indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, Erekat said. " The Quartet will be listening to the two sides to come up with a comprehensive stance."

Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, contacted Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and told him that the Quartet would like to play a bigger role in the peace process, he added.

"The Quartet's role would not be an alternative to the U.S. one, " Erekat said. The U.S.-brokered negotiations were halted in September when Israel resumed building settlements in the West Bank.

Earlier, Erekat called on the Quartet to recognize the independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. "The Quartet's statement was disappointing and did not amount to the needed level," he said.

Their statement should have obliged Israel to stop settlement activities, including in Jerusalem, in addition to the recognition of the Palestinian state," Erekat said.


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