Palestinian officials expressed pessimism today that scheduled meetings with representatives of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators would see Israeli-Palestinian direct peace talks get underway.
The Quartet – the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations – is slated to hold separate meetings on Wednesday with Palestinian and Israeli officials at the UN headquarters in Jerusalem, to discuss the renewal of the deadlocked negotiations.
But Nabil Shaath, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said he did not foresee anything coming out of the talks.
“The Quartet, and particularly the U.S., does not seem to have a clear vision on how to restart negotiations,” he told Voice of Palestine Radio.
Palestinians have said they will not return to the talks until Israel stops all settlement activities in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and recognizes the lines which existed before the Six Day War in 1967 as the borders of the future Palestinian state.
“Our demands are very clear and they will not change for any reason,” said Shaath, who is also a leading member in President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement.
Unless Israel complies with these conditions, he said, “we will not return to negotiations. There is just no use from them.”
Shaath said the Palestinian negotiating team would relay this message to the Quartet representatives, stressing that “the Quartet does not seem to understand that we will not return again to negotiations while the land is being stolen from under our feet.”
Israel has said it is prepared to sit down with the Palestinians at any time but only without conditions.
“Israel has welcomed the Quartet’s call for the resumption of direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians without preconditions,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Wednesday. “And we hope to see the early resumption of such talks.”
The Quartet mission comes after the Palestinians asked the UN last month to recognize an independent state of Palestine. The request defied a U.S.-led effort to block the move,
which is currently under review at the UN Security Council.
Immediately after the statehood application was submitted, the Quartet called for a
resumption of peace talks in a month, with the ambitious goal of reaching a peace agreement by late 2012.
Peace talks stalled three years ago, then resumed for a brief three weeks in September 2010 before collapsing after a 10-month Israeli freeze on settlement construction expired.
The deadlock prompted the Palestinians to seek statehood through the UN, where the move faces a threatened U.S.veto at the Security Council if the Palestinians manage to muster the required support of nine of the council’s 15 members.
Without Security Council backing, the most the Palestinians can hope for is a largely symbolic upgrade of their status at the UN to non-member observer state.