JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel blamed the Palestinians Sunday for rejecting a call to hold face-to-face peace talks when representatives of Middle East power brokers visit the region later this week.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel had renewed an offer to hold direct talks with the Palestinians ahead of Wednesday's visit by envoys of the so-called Quartet of the European Union, United States, Russia and the United Nations.
Peace talks froze a year ago in a dispute over the building of Jewish settlements in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, which Palestinians seek for a state.
Palestinians have refused repeated Israeli calls to renew the talks unless Israel stops building settlements on West Bank land Palestinians want for a state. Israel has rejected that demand, saying talks should not have preconditions.
Regev said Israel had urged that the coming Quartet visit be accompanied by a direct meeting of Israelis and Palestinians. But he said Israel has learned that senior Palestinian official and veteran negotiator Saeb Erekat "has refused."
"We are disappointed," Regev said in remarks by telephone, calling it "frustrating that the Palestinian side repeatedly refuses to engage in peace talks directly with Israel."
Erekat could not immediately be reached for comment. Last month Erekat told reporters that Quartet efforts to resume the negotiations had failed and that he held Israel responsible.
The Palestinians, arguing that talks have failed, appealed in September for recognition by the United Nations, a move opposed by Israel and the United States who say that Palestinian independence should emerge only through the peace process.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan)