Netanyahu meets Mitchell 311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Thursday it is near to securing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct peace talks. Some US officials said an announcement could be imminent.
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The State Department said an agreement was "very, very close" but that details were still being worked out. An announcement could come as early as Friday or Saturday, said administration officials familiar with the matter. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the ongoing diplomacy.
"We think we are very, very close to a decision by the parties to enter into direct negotiations," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters. "We think we're well positioned to get there."
To that end, he said, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had
called Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad late Wednesday and spoken
Thursday with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and former
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the special representative of the
"Quartet" of Mideast peacemakers — the US, the UN, the European Union
Officials said tentative plans call for the Quartet and the US to
release separate statements saying the stalled talks will resume early
next month in either the US or Egypt. The US statement, expected to be
issued in Clinton's name, and the Quartet statement would serve as
invitations for the talks, they said.
The Israelis and Palestinians would then accept, the officials said.
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Crowley declined comment on the specific arrangements but suggested
multiple statements were in the works.
"As part of the Quartet we are prepared to demonstrate our support for
the parties as they move towards this decision," he said. "But we, the
United States, have always played a special role within this effort, and
we will be prepared to assist the parties going forward in moving
towards a successful negotiation. So we can do both."
Details of the timing and location of talks remained unclear on
Thursday. The US officials said they were still shooting for around
Sept. 1 in either Washington, Cairo or the Egyptian Red Sea resort of
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