RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – The Palestinians have made further progress towards relaunching direct talks with Israel following a meeting with US officials, a Palestinian spokesman said Sunday.
“There has been progress up to this point,” Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP late Sunday following talks with deputy US envoy David Hale in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
“The official Palestinian position will be made public after the Quartet statement,” he said, referring to the diplomatic group composed of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
The two sides discussed a draft of the statement, which the Palestinians have said would invite both sides to relaunch direct negotiations, provide a timetable for the talks and call on Israel to halt settlement activity.
The Palestinians hope it will match a declaration issued in March in Moscow that called for a settlement freeze and for the two sides to resume final status talks with the goal of reaching an agreement in two years.
The Palestinians have resisted months of US pressure to meet face-to-face with Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arguing that his right-wing government is not serious about withdrawing from Palestinian lands occupied in the 1967 Six Day War, including annexed east Jerusalem.
A Palestinian official said earlier that Washington wanted to launch direct talks “at the start of September,” but that the Palestinians hoped to wait until the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ended a week or so later.
The direct talks were expected to be officially launched at a trilateral meeting in Washington or Egypt, the official added.
Israel has repeatedly called for direct talks, but gave a frosty reception to the Moscow declaration when it was issued.
The international community has been putting increasing pressure on the Palestinians to move from the US-brokered indirect talks they grudgingly agreed to in May to direct negotiations.
The last round of direct talks collapsed in December 2008 when Israel launched a blistering offensive on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip aimed at halting rocket attacks.