Israel backs Mideast talks plan — with reservations

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s government welcomed on Sunday parts of an international proposal to resume long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians but said it had concerns about the plan.

The plan by Mideast mediators, known as the Quartet, calls for a peace deal in a year and asks both sides to produce comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months.

The Quartet presented the latest timetable after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked the U.N. late last month to recognize a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War.

The Palestinian request has put the U.S. and other countries in a diplomatically awkward position, forcing them to take sides for or against, and has stepped up pressure on the international community to chart out a resolution of the conflict.

The Israeli government would not say Sunday what its concerns were, saying only that it would raise them “at the appropriate time.”

However, Israeli officials have expressed reservations about the Quartet’s timetable for the discussion of specific issues.

A senior Palestinian official, Saeb Erekat, dismissed the Israeli government’s statement as disingenuous, noting that Israel has previously rejected key provisions of the Quartet proposal, including a freeze of Israeli settlement building on occupied land.

On Sunday, senior Israeli Cabinet ministers discussed the Quartet’s proposal.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israel “welcomes the Quartet’s call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions” but said it would raise its “concerns” in the future.

Israeli officials have previously questioned the one-year timetable, as well as the Quartet’s call to produce “comprehensive proposals” on territory and security within three months.

Israel believes these matters should not be broken away from a wider array of issues dividing Israel and the Palestinians, like the conflicting claims to east Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees displaced during Israel’s establishment 63 years ago.

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