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(photo credit: NATO [file])
US Special Envoy for Middle East Security James Jones discussed a concept of "regional security" during talks with Israeli officials on Tuesday, dispelling a notion that his primary role would be to judge when Israel and the Palestinian Authority had fulfilled their road map obligations.
Jones, who arrived early Tuesday morning for a 24-hour visit directly from the donor's conference in Paris, met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and top security and IDF officials.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appointed Jones soon after the Annapolis conference last month, but few details regarding his exact role have emerged so far. At the time, it was believed that he would head the mechanism that would determine when the two sides had fulfilled their road map requirements, but how that mechanism will work has yet to be decided.
Rice gave some indication of what she had in mind for Jones when she told reporters en route to Paris on Sunday that the establishment of a Palestinian state "will raise questions about a security vacuum when Israelis leave the West Bank. And this is not an issue just for the Palestinians. It's an issue for the states in the area as well, like Jordan and Egypt."
As a result, she said, there needed to be a "hard look" from a military expert on what the possible vacuums could "look like when you create a Palestinian state," and how to deal with them.
Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said after the prime minister's hour-long meeting with Jones that Israel views his mission as "important," supports it and "will fully cooperate in implementing it."
The IDF Spokesman issued a statement after Ashkenazi's meeting with Jones, saying Ashkenazi had presented the US envoy with "a strategic assessment of the region and the security challenges facing Israel."
The US embassy had no comment on any of the meetings, and Jones did not make any public statements while in the country.
Jones, a former marine general, was NATO's top military commander from 2003 to 2005.
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