WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that the Mideast peace process will get back on track next week, with indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks. But she urged the resumption of direct negotiations on a peace deal.
Clinton said that the Obama administration's special Mideast envoy George Mitchell, who will mediate the talks, will travel to the region next week. His visit will follow a weekend meeting of Arab League diplomats.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat hinted that the beginning of the talks was not yet a done deal.
"We are making every possible effort to begin these talks. Every effort is being made to do this. But the official decision will be made by the Arab foreign ministers and the PLO executive committee," he said. He would not elaborate further.
Government officials had no immediate reaction.
Indirect talks involve US officials meeting with one side at a time, and there are not any negotiations planned where Israelis and Palestinians are at the same table.
"Ultimately, we want to see the parties in direct negotiations and working out all the difficult issues that they must," Clinton told reporters after meeting with Kuwait's foreign minister, Mohammad Sabah al-Salem al Sabah.Related:Mitchell hopes to launch proximity talksBefore Obama talks, PM defends J’lem buildingPrevious negotiations initiative stalled on east J'lem construction issue
An attempt to get indirect talks started last month fizzled when Israel announced a new Jewish housing project in east Jerusalem. That drew fierce criticism from the United States and led to the worst rift between Washington and its top Mideast ally in decades.
Since then, the Obama administration has sought to repair the damage with a series of recent meetings and speeches from senior officials, including Clinton and national security adviser James Jones.
"The Middle East will never realize its full potential, Israel will never be truly secure, the Palestinians will never have their legitimate aspiration for a state unless we create the circumstances in which positive negotiations can occur," Clinton said.