U.S.: Middle East peace is still a priority, still working on “direct” negotiations

The U.S. State Department’s Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told journalists in Washington on Friday that America would “discourage frankly” anything that might affect resumption of “direct” Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Here are some excerpts from Toner’s exchange with journalists:
“QUESTION: Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator was quoted yesterday that the U.S. asked the Palestinians to give them two more weeks to try to convince Israel to freeze settlements. And the Arab League gave the U.S. a one-month period which will end on Monday. [n.b. - as we reported yesterday, the Arab League appears to have already extended this period for another month...]

MR. TONER: Well –

QUESTION: And can you comment on this?

MR. TONER: I really can’t. As we’ve said time and time again from this podium as well as Senator Mitchell and Secretary Clinton, we’re not going to talk about the details. They did meet yesterday. He did meet with Senator Mitchell. But I’m not going into what they discussed. But obviously, we remain hard at work and our priority remains getting the two sides back in direct negotiations.

QUESTION: Mind if I have a follow-up?

MR. TONER: Yeah, Michelle.

QUESTION: He also talked about one option that the Palestinians are weighing seriously is going to the United Nations and asking for a UN to declare a Palestinian state.

MR. TONER: And again, we –

QUESTION: What’s your position on that?

MR. TONER: Well, we talked about this yesterday. Our goal remains getting both sides back into direct negotiations. It is ultimately the only that all of these outstanding issues are going to be resolved. And so anything that might affect getting those – getting both parties back into direct negotiations, we would discourage frankly…

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