What has George Mitchell achieved so far?

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley said at the Daily Press Briefing for journalists in Washington, DC on Wednesday 21 July — in response to questions — that U.S. Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell had returned from his latest efforts in “proximity” talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and had achieved… “A lot of frequent flyer miles (laughter).”…

State spokesperson Crowley continued: “George has returned. He had a wide range of discussions not just with the Israelis and Palestinians, as he always does, but with others in the region whose support is critical to moving the parties forward into direct negotiations. Those meetings included the UAE, Qatar, and Egypt. We will continue our discussions with these key players and see if we can find the way to move them forward.

QUESTION: P.J., recently the – in fact, a couple days ago, the Israel press reviewed that Israel has what they call a secret plan to absolve itself of any responsibility for Gaza, and basically they want to call – they are discussing this with the European – six European ministers. And what they want is an international force to come and control the borders. And it’s (inaudible), interpreted as basically saddling Egypt with Gaza and (inaudible) any possibility for a viable state. Any comments on this topic? Any information on that and so on? It is a plan that is being –

MR. CROWLEY replied: We don’t normally comment on secret plans from the party”.

In the briefing, Crowley was also asked about remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a recent interview:

QUESTION: Palestinian President Abbas … seems to be saying that he would like the United States to specify what the boundaries of a Palestinian state would look like before he enters into direct talks. Are you aware of that? Is that something the United States would be prepared to do?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve had discussions in the recent days with the Palestinian authorities, including President Abbas. I’m not going to reveal the specifics of those conversations. Our message to both parties is let’s get to direct negotiations as quickly as possible, where, in fact, we can address the fundamental issues and the process, including borders. These are issues that we think can only be resolved within the context of direct negotiations. Now, there certainly is the opportunity in the proximity talks that we’re having and other contacts that we have to clarify and identify the foundation upon which the direct negotiations could pursue. So, is the opportunity to have dialogue on these issues leading up to direct negotiations, of course. But ultimately, in order to address the concerns that we know that both parties have – refugees, security, Jerusalem, borders – those are going to be resolved in the direct negotiations themselves.

QUESTION: Does the United States have a map per se that it is ready – that it might be ready to put forward?

MR. CROWLEY: We will play a constructive role, but ultimately this is something that the parties themselves have to resolve”.

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