JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Chief Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators plan to meet this week, restarting talks that were suspended after a deadly Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israeli and Western officials said on Sunday.
The negotiations, led by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurie, have shown little sign of progress since they were launched at a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November.
An Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity and a visiting Western envoy, who met with Qurie, said the chief negotiators have agreed to meet this week.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he was not immediately aware of a specific date for a meeting.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas temporarily suspended the negotiations earlier this month after an Israeli offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip killed more than 120 Palestinians, many of them civilians. Israel said the incursion was meant to counter cross-border rocket fire by militants.
The U.S.-backed peace talks have also been bogged down by disputes over Israeli plans to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The construction has drawn fire from both the Palestinians and the United States, Israel’s closest ally.
Abbas, whose authority has been limited to the West Bank since Hamas Islamists seized Gaza in June, wants to reach a full-fledged agreement allowing him to declare statehood.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said the goal of the peace talks was to reach an understanding this year on “basic principles” for a Palestinian state, with implementation only once Abbas reined in militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as called for under the long-stalled “road map” peace plan.
Israel has yet to meet its own commitments under the road map to halt all settlement activity and uproot Jewish outposts in the West Bank built without Israeli government authorization.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday that neither Israel nor the Palestinians had done “nearly enough” to meet peacemaking obligations.