Israel has welcomed the Quartet call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions
Palestinian officials have said that Israel welcoming a proposal by the Middle East Quartet to resume long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians without any preconditions changes nothing on the ground.
In reaction to Israel's accepting a return to negotiations, Palestinians said on Sunday that Israel could not say it had accepted the Quartet statement without announcing a halt to Israeli settlement construction.
"As usual, Israel welcomes the Quartet statement but practically rejects it," Mustapha Barghouti, a Palestinian official, said.
"As long as Israel refuses to freeze settlement activities in the occupied territories and refuses to recognise the 1967 borders, there is no way we can have negotiations.
"Israel is practically imposing conditions on the ground by continuing settlement activities and undermining any possibilities for fruitful peace talks."
Asked about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's acceptance of the Quartet's initiative, Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said "returning to negotiations requires Israel to commit to stopping settlement".
Earlier on Sunday, Israel called for an immediate return to peace talks under the framework of a proposal by the four mediators - the US, the European Union, the UN, and Russia.
"Israel welcomes the Quartet call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions," Netanyahu's office said.
The US welcomed Israel's apparent acceptance of a plan by the Quartet to return to talks with the Palestinians, saying it was the best chance for peace.
"We welcome the Israeli government's announcement today expressing readiness to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, as called for by the Quartet," Victoria Nuland, the US State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
Israel and the US have opposed the bid for Palestinian statehood at the UN launched by Abbas, the Palestinian president, after two decades of stalled negotiations that have failed to establish a Palestinian state.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies