Israel welcomes invitation to resume peace talks

Last Updated: Fri, Aug 20, 2010 17:00 hrs

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Friday an invitation to begin direct peace talks with the Palestinians, a statement issued by the prime minister's office said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Middle East Quartet of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU, issued the invitation separately Friday, after weeks of wrangling over between Israelis, Palestinians and mediators over the terms of the proposed negotiations.

The Israeli response, which referred only to the invitation issued by Clinton in Washington, said Netanyahu 'expressed satisfaction' at the US clarification that the talks would be conducted without preconditions. The talks are due to begin Sep 2.

'Achieving peace is a difficult challenge but a possible one,' the statement quoted Netanyahu as saying. 'We approach the talks with a genuine will to reach a peace agreement between the two peoples, while safeguarding Israel's national interests, first and foremost security.'

The last incarnation of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, begun at the end of 2007, was suspended in late 2008 as Israel headed into an election campaign.

Negotiations between the sides were not renewed until indirect talks began in spring this year, with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell shuttling the short distance between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

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