Obama calls Abu Mazen

Haaretz is reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama has phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] on Friday (yesterday) “to brief the Palestinian president on the American leader’s recent meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … Obama promised Abbas that he would exert every effort to ensure the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel”.

The last time we heard about an Obama call to Abu Mazen was on the day after Obama’s inauguration — and his call to Abu Mazen then was his first to a foreign leader after taking office.

Apparently, U.S. Special Middle East envoy will be back in the region soon [either for a sixth round of indirect or “proximity” talks that started in May, or perhaps to transition into the direct mode which is, and always was, inevitable].

How do we know about this? Haaretz wrote that “Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told the Palestinian news agency WAFA following the phone conversation that Abbas expressed his commitment to a serious peace process that would ‘end the occupation’ and result in an independent Palestinian state”. This report can be read in full ,strong>here].

No progress — yet — in negotiations as Israel keeps up pressure + Palestinians wait

According to a report published by Ma’an News Agency today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) had a frustrating conversation with U.S. Special Envoy for the Middle East, George Mitchell, who came to Ramallah on Friday.

The two men reportedly met again on Sunday, in Amman — after Mitchell had a second meeting while in the region with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. — and no details of the second meeting have been released.

But, according to the Ma’an report today, Presidential aide Nimr Hammad said “that Abbas asked first that Israel commit to a settlement freeze even for a limited period of time. He also asked that negotiations be on the basis of a withdrawal” to the lines of 4 June 1967.

The Presidential aide offered the following summary of the Friday meeting:

Mitchell: The Israelis have requested renewed negotiations, saying they froze settlements for ten months.

Abbas: Go to Jerusalem and see for yourself the settlement activity and Judaization of the city – you’ll see the situation on the ground looks nothing like a settlement freeze.

Mitchell: The Israelis could take confidence-building steps like releasing prisoners, removing checkpoints, changing areas classified as “C” [according to the Oslo Accords] to “B” classification, and areas “B” to “A.”

Abbas: This is a good thing.

Mitchell: But there’s a prerequisite for that, resuming negotiations.

Abbas: We welcome these ideas but not as preconditions for talks.

“After this dialogue, Mitchell suggested indirect negotiations between other parties, during which he would shuffle between other sides, including the Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese.

This summary account of last Friday’s Abu Mazen-George Mitchell talks is published here.

Continue reading No progress — yet — in negotiations as Israel keeps up pressure + Palestinians wait