The Palestinian Authority has accepted an invitation from the United States to resume direct negotiations with Israel, but warned that it will withdraw if Israel builds more settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, confirmed that the talks would be attended by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.
"If the Israeli government decides to announce new tenders on September 26, then we won't be able to continue with the talks," he said.
A 10-month moratorium on new building in the Palestinian territory is due to expire at the end of September and the majority of Netanyahu's cabinet is believed to be against extending the suspension.
Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah in the West Bank, said that settlement construction, which is illegal under international law, was a "political hot potato" for both Palestinian politicians and the Palestinian public.
"I don't think this would have come together, I don't think Mahmoud Abbas would have been able to sell it to his constituents, unless those informal commitments had been communicated."
"There have been difficulties in the past. There will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles. The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and derail these talks," she said.
talks about talks
December 2008: Palestinians suspend talks after Israel launches Gaza war. March 2010: Abbas agrees to indirect talks, then freezes them over settlements. May 2010: Indirect talks begin with a four-month timeframe.August 2010: US expected to announce resumption of direct talks.September 2010: West Bank settlement freeze scheduled to end on September 26.
Netanyahu, who has called for a return to direct talks without preconditions, reacted positively to the news, saying Israel wanted to conduct "serious and comprehensive talks" with the Palestinians.
The announcement on Friday came as a surprise to many observers, who said that there had been little sign of the diplomatic breakthrough many believed was a prerequisite for a resumption of talks.
"You don't see that there are conditions ripe on the ground for talks. You don't see anything in terms of increased goodwill; in fact what you see on the ground rather is the opposite," Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said.
"One very much gets the impression that the driving reason why these talks are taking place, or are going to take place, is simply that the Americans want them to."
"They issued an invitation that both sides can spin to their own satisfaction," he told Al Jazeera.
"The Palestinians got a timeframe, the Palestinians got reference to the Quartet statements. So we see Abbas focusing on these aspects while Netanyahu is focusing on other aspects of the invitation."
Haniya also said Palestinians should concentrate on national reconciliation before peace with Israel.