U.S Envoy Meets with Israel and Palestinian Authority
Peace talks resume with hopes of beginning direct negotiations.
Peace talks are set to resume as U.S. envoy George Mitchell, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. Contradictory statements have been reported regarding how well the meeting has been progressing.
Clinton, speaking in Washington, called the meeting “good“ and “productive,” and noted that the U.S. has been working closely with both sides in trying to “get to direct talks as soon as possible.” However, no clear indication of a breakthrough has been cited.
Mitchell arrived Monday night to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister and was scheduled to board a flight to Washington Wednesday evening after separate meeting with Netanyahu as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The meeting between Mitchell and Netanyahu lasted two hours, though details of the meeting have yet to be released.
Mitchell also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas just a day before he met with Netanyahu. Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah are scheduled to travel to Cairo on Thursday to meet with Hosni Mubarak to discuss the progression of the peace process.
The U.S. has reportedly been putting pressure on the Palestinian Authority to begin direct talks, according to a senior PA official in Ramallah. Both Jordan and Egypt, according to Israeli officials, have been also pushing the PA to launch direct talks.
According to Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, the Abbas-Mitchell talks have not produced promising results. Direct talks, he said, were being stalled by Israel’s lack of recognition of the original 1967 borders of what he believes should become the new Palestinian state. He also cited Israel’s continued construction of settlements in Jerusalem as a hindrance.
However, an English-speaking PA official, who chose to remain anonymous, told reporters that progress has, in fact, been attained in the Abbas-Mitchell meeting. According to the source, the U.S. administration pledged commitment to establishing a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, after direct talks take place.
According to the American contingency, “We are very sincere in saying that they need to sit down and do this face to face. Any other understanding that would preempt sitting and talking together is not best for the process.”
In what suggests an easing of tensions, Netanyahu released a video message Muslims around the world an easy fast as Ramadan began on Wednesday. “We are marking this important month at a time of our efforts to reach direct negotiations with the Palestinians and move forward peace agreements with our Arab neighbors,” he said. “I know that you are partners in this goal, and request your help, support and prayers” to reach “peaceful, harmonious coexistence.”