Quartet aims to start Mideast talks Sept 2 - agency

Quartet aims to start Mideast talks Sept 2  - agency

World powers will invite Israelis and Palestinians to begin direct peace talks on Sept. 2 in Washington, a diplomatic source told Reuters on Thursday..

Envoys from the so-called Quartet of powers -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- agreed to the details on Thursday, the source told Reuters. A formal statement is due to be issued on Friday.

"They've got an agreement that the talks will start on Sept 2 in Washington," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Israelis and Palestinians were expected to agree to attend, and President Barack Obama would be present at the talks, the source said.

Earlier, diplomatic sources said the Quartet was discussing a draft statement inviting Israel and the Palestinians to embark on direct talks intended to conclude a treaty in one year.

The Quartet said in June that peace talks would be expected to conclude in 24 months. The new draft says 12 months. The Palestinian Authority government intends to have established all the attributes of statehood by mid-2011.

Diplomats say the idea that a unilateral declaration of statehood could win support if talks do not start or collapse in the next 12 months is gaining interest.

The peace process resumed in May after a hiatus of 19 months but is stalled over the terms of an upgrade from indirect talks mediated by U.S. envoy George Mitchell to direct negotiations.

Israel insists it is ready for direct talks provided there are no preconditions. The Palestinians are ready provided there is a clear agenda. Israel says an agenda means preconditions.

The White House declined to comment. Obama is currently on vacation in Massachusetts.

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