(Israel Twitter)JERUSALEM — Indirect Middle East peace talks should begin soon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday in the first public comment by an Israeli official on a U.S. initiative.
Lieberman made the remarks during a visit to Azerbaijan, when he told President Ilham Aliyev "that in his estimation, indirect talks with the Palestinians would begin shortly," the foreign ministry said.
Lieberman's comments came a day after Palestinen officials said president Mahmud Abbas agreed in principle to indirect talks with Israel under US mediation but requested a number of guarantees.
The latest UNITED STATES proposal for renewing peace talks suspended more than a year ago would have the two sides hold three months of indirect negotiations and have Israel make several goodwill gestures to the Palestinians.
The Palestinians would continue to require a complete freeze of Israeli settlements before any direct negotiations but not as a precondition to indirect talks.
The Palestinians said if accepted, the talks would begin February 20 with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell shuttling between the two sides.
The two sides have been at loggerheads for months as Washington has called for the renewal of negotiations that were suspended when Israel launched its three-week Gaza offensive in December 2008.
The Palestinens have refused to return to the negotiating table without a complete freeze of Jewish settlement growth in the occupied territories, including east Jerusalem, which they claim as their capital.