RAMALLAH: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Monday he is ready to resume direct talks with Israel but only based on a freeze of Jewish settlement activity as called for by the Middle East peace Quartet.
"We are ready to begin direct negotiations with Israel if the Quartet asks for them on the basis of its decisions of March 19," he told journalists in the West Bank town of Ramallah on the eve of a visit by US envoy George Mitchell.
The Quartet of the United States, the United Nations, European Union and Russia called in March for Israel to freeze all Jewish settlement activity on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.
East Jerusalem is the mainly Arab half of the Holy City that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and then annexed.
Israel swiftly rejected the Quartet`s call, saying it harmed the chances of a peace accord.
The Quartet also urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks on final-status issues with the aim of reaching a peace settlement within 24 months.
Mitchell is to hold talks on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas, before returning to Washington the next day.
The Palestinians and Israelis have since May held indirect "proximity" talks with Mitchell as mediator but they have not held direct negotiations since Israel`s war on Hamas-ruled Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.
US officials say they are encouraged that Arab foreign ministers agreed to "green light" direct talks when they met in Cairo in late July.
BDST: 0945 HRS, August 10, 2010