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Diplomacy & Politics
HERB KEINON \
PA President Abbas with PM Netanyahu 311 (R).
(photo credit:Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
Israel's envoy to the talks, Yitzhak Molcho, outlined Wednesday night for the Palestinians the principles and parameters that will guide Israel's policy on border issues, an Israeli government official said.According to the official, Molcho did not draw a line on a map, but rather spoke in general principles about what Israel would take into consideration when drawing that line.Israel's presentation of the principles guiding its thinking on the border issues, follows a similar presentation Israel gave the Palestinians Saturday night in Amman outlining the principles outlining its thinking on security issues.Under the Quartet formula drawn up on September 23 for bringing the sides to the negotiating table, both Israel and the Palestinians were to present each other with comprehensive proposals on those two issues within 90 days. According to the Palestinians, that 90-day period expired on Thursday, while Israel – which believes that the period did not start until direct talks began in Amman earlier this month – that period does not end until the beginning of April.In an apparent effort to preempt Palestinian claims that Israel refuses to deal with the border issue, the official said Israel "is dealing with the issues that the Quartet believes are important." He said that both sides asked for clarification from the other regarding issues that were raised. "Israel's position remains that within the framework of a peace process moving forward, we are ready for mutual confidence measures. But the talks must be without preconditions."One of the steps the Palestinians are asking for is a release of Fatah prisoners held in Israeli jails. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made clear that one of the steps he expects from the Palestinian side is an end to incitement within the Palestinian Authority.The official said that the current talks in Amman are indeed in a preliminary stage, and that Israel's position is that it was important to "let the talks reach fruition, and not cut them off early.""Israel remains committed to the Quartet framework," the official said. "It is ready to move forward according to its timetable, and is ready for substantive talks on core issues. We hope this is not stifled at the very beginning."No date for another round of talks was set after Wednesday night's meeting.The Quartet has set the end of 2012 as a deadline for reaching an agreement.The official acknowledged that the sides were talking about gestures they could make to each other to improve the atmosphere.In a related development, Netanyahu spoke by phone Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanking her for supporting the ratcheting up of EU sanctions against Iran earlier this week. He has already held similar conversations over the last two days with British Prime Minister David Cameron, and with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.Israeli officials said that Europe very much wants to see the Amman talks continue, and that Merkel is expected to relay this message to PA President Mahmoud Abbas in the coming days.
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