JERUSALEM, Israel - The Palestinian Authority entered third-party talks with Israel, PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat announced on Sunday.
"I can officially declare today that the proximity talks have begun," Erekat told reporters, adding that President Mahmoud Abbas will head the PA's negotiating team.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the PA on its decision to enter negotiations without preconditions, urging them to progress to direct talks quickly.
"I'd like to stress two points in this context," Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting. "The talks are taking place without preconditions, as we insisted all along. And the proximity talks must lead to direct talks as soon as possible," he said.
"Peace cannot be brought from a distance or by remote-control, especially as we are such close neighbors. These agreements, crucial to Israel's future and that of the Palestinians, will not be reached without sitting and negotiating in the same room. We must achieve peace and security so we are able to live side by side with the Palestinians for generations," Netanyahu said.
The third-party talks, which will be mediated by Obama administration Middle East envoy George Mitchell, will take place in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Netanyahu will lead Israel's negotiating team.