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…

Continue reading U.S.: Middle East peace is still a priority, still working on "direct" negotiations

Akiva Eldar on what the Palestinians got in Washington – and what they will get in "direct" talks

On 7 September, Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz that “The Palestinians returned from the Washington summit with a sense that the Americans, for a change, understand them and perhaps favor their side [n.b. – this is what Palestinians hoped for ever since Obama’s taking office in January 2009]. The optimism prevailing in Ramallah is not due to cautious hope that Netanyahu will decide to divide Jerusalem. It stems from Obama’s promise that the United States will not surprise [emphasis added] the Palestinians, a formulation for years reserved for the ‘special relationship’ between the U.S and Israel. This is what Abbas received in return for his consent to open direct negotiations.

If among Israelis there is widespread concern that a final status arrangement with the Palestinians will turn out to be temporary , the Palestinians have learned that with Israelis, the temporary easily turns into the permanent. The impending solution was intended to combine the permanent with the temporary. The American mediators will strive to get the parties to sign a framework agreement that is based on the principles of the Clinton outline from December 2000: the 1967 borders; proportional territorial exchanges; disarmament of assault weapons; division of sovereignty in eastern Jerusalem based on the ethnic makeup of the neighborhoods; realization of the right of return in the Palestinian state. The signing of such an agreement in principle by Netanyahu and Abbas, with accompanying timetables, will pave the way to interim stages. The first stage should be delineating settlement blocs that will be freed of the construction freeze”.

This Akiva Eldar report is posted here.

Laura Rozen on George Mitchell

Laura Rozen has reported on Politico on 3 September that “One diplomat who attended a State Department briefing Friday for Western country diplomats on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks noted the administration is keeping its cards close to the chest with their allies as well. ‘Every question was answered with “it’s up to the parties to decide”, or “no comment”, or “let’s not get ahead of ourselves”,’ he said of the forty minute briefing. ‘Virtually nothing was said that wasn’t direct quotes from Obama, Clinton, or Mitchell’ in recent days, he added. The administration is trying to brief more and do more outreach, while at the same time be quite secretive and stingy with details so as not to imperil fragile peace efforts … at a Tuesday briefing at the National Security Council, Mitchell regaled journalists – and sounded like he would be happy to go on even longer — on what was analogous and not between the Northern Irish peace effort vs. the current Middle East one, which hadn’t quite been asked by anyone. He filled the time with anodyne observations without stepping on more delicate current territory, no doubt an art in and of itself. The diplomat said he understood the discretion so as not to spoil the chances of success. His only issue was that they perhaps shouldn’t invite a lot of people for a briefing if the purpose was to have an excuse to decline a more detailed one in person at a later date”.

This was posted here.

Quartet on U.S. invitation: negotiations can be completed in one year

Here is what the Quartet said after the U.S. issued invitations to Israel and the Palestinian leadership today, to start direct talks in Washington D.C. on 2 September:

“The representatives of the Quartet reaffirm their strong support for direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues. The Quartet reaffirms its full commitment to its previous statements, including in Trieste on 26 June 2009, in New York on 24 September 2009, and its statement in Moscow on 19 March 2010 which provides that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should ‘lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors’. The Quartet expresses its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations, which can be completed within one year, and the implementation of an agreement”…

Continue reading Quartet on U.S. invitation: negotiations can be completed in one year