Palestinian Leader Says He's Ready for Israel Peace Talks with U.S., U.N., Europe and Russia

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has expressed his readiness to return to peace talks with Israel mediated by the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, which has aligned itself exceptionally closely with Israel in recent years.

On Tuesday Abbas received U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in the West Bank capital of Ramallah, where the Palestinian leader told London's top diplomat of the Palestinian sides' "commitment to achieving peace in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy, and that we are ready to go to negotiations under the auspices of the International Quartet and with the participation of other countries, as well as our firm commitment to fight global terrorism," according to a handout released by his office.

The "Middle East Quartet" was established in 2002, as the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada, and the Israeli crackdown that answered it, swept through the territories over which the two peoples had battled for decades. While representatives of the international group have met periodically throughout the years, tensions and disagreements prevail to this day, especially in the wake of controversial moves taken by President Donald Trump.

The Quartet has not met since September 2018, months after the White House moved Washington's embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the contested holy city as the capital of Israel. That move prompted Palestinian leadership to consider the United States' role in the long-running peace talks effectively over.

Abbas and other top officials accelerated their criticism of Washington after Trump presented a roadmap for peace that appeared to further erode Palestinian governance, and brokered a peace plan between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Palestinian leadership called the agreement a "betrayal" and withdrew its envoy in Abu Dhabi.

The U.K. opposed the embassy move but welcomed ties between the UAE and Israel. Raab tweeted Tuesday that he "underlined the UK's friendship & support for a two-state solution & encouraged to resume cooperation with Israel - a key step in improving the situation in the West Bank and Gaza & securing peace in the Middle East" during his talk with Abbas.

He also tweeted that he promised a roughly $3.5 million aid package to Palestinians as "just the latest example of our close ties" with their leadership. Raab also met hours earlier with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and said he had "reiterated UK support for dialogue with Palestinians to achieve lasting peace through a viable 2-state solution."

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Signs at the seats where Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian representative Saeb Erekat were to sit in a meeting with the Middle East Quartet during the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly September 27, 2013 at U.N. headquarters in New York. A U.N. representative removed the signs shortly before the meeting started. STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

Abbas' announcement came the same day as a virtual gathering of the U.N. Security Council session at which participants delivered remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, discussing issues such as humanitarian concerns in Palestinian territories, worsening violence and efforts to resurrect the Quartet format.

Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said the "set of final status issues should be resolved in direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis," calling on its Quartet partners "to intensify cooperation in these interests," according to a tweet posted by his mission.

German ambassador to the U.N. Günter Sautter hoped that the UAE-Israel deal would "restore a meaningful dialogue between Israelis & Palestinians towards a negotiated, peaceful settlement" of their conflict, according to a tweet posted Tuesday by his mission. He called "for resumption of direct and meaningful negotiations between the parties as a first step to revive the peace process," and said that "Reactivation of the Middle East Quartet would be the best option to discuss way forward."

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft touted both Trump's peace plan and the UAE-Israel accord, while blaming revolutionary Shiite Muslim Iran, the Gaza-based Palestinian Sunni Islamist movement Hamas and other unnamed nations for stoking unrest in the region.

"So much progress on defining the parameters of a settlement has been achieved in years past, as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators compromised with one another in pursuit of peace," Craft said. "The sides must continue in a spirit of goodwill, which we have already yielded peace for millions of people in the Middle East. Arab nations making peace with Israel does not diminish the need for peace with the Palestinians. America wants to see peace between the Israeli and the Palestinian people."

On the ground, however, Gaza-based fighters fired rockets and released bomb-laden balloons while Israel conducted strikes by air and land. Amid this violence, the Israeli armed forces sent out a new lockdown alert on Tuesday for residents in the north after reports of a potential infiltration from the northern border with Lebanon, where the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement operates.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency cited a security source as saying that "the Israeli enemy army found a hole" in the Blue Line border fence separating the two near northern Israel's Manara village. The report was accompanied by coverage of Israeli aircraft firing flares and machine guns near southern Lebanon's villages of Mays al-Jabal and Houla, where nearby Syria's official media reported that Israel had fired white phosphorous rounds.

This is a developing story. More information will be added as it becomes available.