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(Updates with Liberman comment in fifth paragraph.)
Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded favorably to a proposal from international mediators to restart peace talks and will consult with his government before issuing a formal response, an official said.
Netanyahu plans to meet with Cabinet ministers to discuss the initiative after returning to Israel from New York tomorrow, said the Israeli official, who declined to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the record. Netanyahu’s initial reaction was positive because the statement from the so-called Mideast Quartet calls for negotiations without specifying preconditions, he said.
The Palestinians have indicated they were unlikely to accept the proposal from the Quartet, which is comprised of the U.S., United Nations, European Union and Russia. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that while he was still studying it, he won’t deal with any initiative that doesn’t demand a halt to Israeli settlement construction, AP reported.
The Quartet proposal came after Abbas spoke at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23 and called on the Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state and grant it full UN membership. The US has threatened to veto the move and is calling for a resumption of talks. The Security Council will meet to discuss the Palestinian application tomorrow. It could take weeks or months before a vote is held.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that UN passage of the Palestinian application for membership would lead to a tough response.
“That would bring us to an altogether new situation and this would have repercussions, severe repercussions,” Liberman said in an interview from New York with Israeli Army Radio. “Any unilateral step will without a doubt bring an Israeli reaction.”
Abbas is scheduled to return to Ramallah today.
The Quartet proposal lays out a timeline for peace talks in which Israelis and Palestinians would reach a final status agreement that would end the conflict by December 2012.
There was nothing in its statement that indicated how the Israeli-Palestinian impasse might be broken, other than putting the burden on the adversaries to “overcome current obstacles” and resume negotiations “without delay or preconditions.”
Negotiations broke down a year ago after Netanyahu refused to renew a 10-month partial freeze on new construction in settlements.
The Quartet statement makes no reference to settlement building, saying only that the parties should “refrain from provocative actions.”
If negotiations resume “I will be the one who reaches a peace agreement between two nations, one of which will be a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state,” Netanyahu said in an interview broadcast Saturday on Israel’s Channel Two.
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--With assistance from Fadwa Hodali in Ramallah, from Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv, Flavia Krause-Jackson in New York. Editors: Louis Meixler, James Kraus, Ben Holland.
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