Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated launching indirect talks with the Palestinian Authority next week on the backdrop of the U.S.'s dissatisfaction with the Israeli government's decision to increase the number of the Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, the Arabic Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that is published in London wrote.
A source in the Israeli prime minister's administration said that U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell will visit the region next week to hold talks with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. After that, the Palestinian Authority's delegation to be headed by Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli government's representative Yitzhak Molha will visit Washington for further talks, the newspaper wrote. However, the source refuted that the talks in the first phase will address the main issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but did not exclude that Israel and the Palestinian Authority will begin discussions on borders and Jewish settlements through the U.S. mediation.
Israel announced its decision to build 1,600 apartments in the Ramat Shlomo settlement in East Jerusalem on Tuesday that casts a shadow over the Middle East visit of the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who had hoped to give new impetus to the peace process. But the Palestinians have indicated that they would not return to the negotiating table, if Israel does not give up its plans.
In a telephone conversation with Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton sharply criticized Israel for its decision to expand settlements in East Jerusalem, arguing that it would have "profoundly negative" impact on Israel's relations with Washington.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Philip Crowley said that Clinton telephoned Israeli Prime Minister, "to convey to him that the United States believes the announcement [of the construction in East Jerusalem] profoundly negative message about Israel's approach to bilateral relations, contrary to the spirit of vice president's travel," BBC Russian wrote.
Earlier, Netanyahu had apologized for a bad time to announce the construction of settlements.
The Quartet of international mediators - the United States, Russia, the EU and the UN - has also condemned the Israeli decision and stated that the issue will be discussed at Clinton's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov to be held in Moscow March 19.
Under international law, all these settlements are illegal, although Israel with such interpretation does not agree.