311_Bibi and mitchell.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
An announcement of the restart of direct Palestinian- Israeli talks continued to elude US envoy George Mitchell Wednesday, though US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called talks he held with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a “good, productive” meeting.
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Speaking in Washington, Clinton said that the US was continuing to work closely with both sides “to get to direct talks as soon as possible,” though she gave no indication of an imminent breakthrough.
who arrived Monday night, was scheduled to leave for Washington
Wednesday evening, following separate meetings during the day with
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Mitchell’s meeting with
Netanyahu lasted for about two hours, but neither side provided any
details of the talks afterward.
Mitchell met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the day before.
the talks with both sides, US officials continued to speak Wednesday of
“cautious optimism” that progress was being made, though there were no
details of exactly what that entailed.
Abbas, along with Jordan’s
King Abdullah, is scheduled to travel to Cairo Thursday for discussions
with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the latest developments
surrounding the peace process.
The trilateral summit will focus
on US pressure on the Palestinians to launch direct talks, a senior PA
official in Ramallah said. Egypt and Jordan, according to Israeli
officials, have also been urging the PA to return to talks.
Hammad, political adviser to Abbas, said the PA president was planning
to brief Mubarak and Abdullah on the outcome of his talks with Mitchell.
the Abbas-Mitchell meeting on Tuesday, PA officials issued
contradictory statements regarding the prospects of conducting direct
Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters that the
Abbas-Mitchell talks had ended without achieving results. He stressed
that the PA was sticking to its position that Israel should first
recognize the 1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state
and halt settlement construction as a precondition for entering into
However, another PA official who spoke (in English)
on condition of anonymity later told reporters that progress had been
achieved during the Abbas-Mitchell talks. The official claimed that the
US administration had agreed to provide the Palestinians with a public
commitment that the direct talks would lead to the establishment of a
Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines.
official also hinted that the Palestinian leadership, despite its public
position, had in fact agreed to launch direct talks with Israel in the
The official’s claim that the US had agreed to
provide the Palestinians with a guarantee that direct talks would lead
to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders was questioned by one
US official, who said that while the Palestinians were seeking US
guarantees, “we are very sincere in saying that they need to sit down
and do this face to face. Any other understanding that would preempt
sitting and talking together is not best for the process.”
related development, Netanyahu released a video message with holiday
greetings to Muslims in Israel and around the world, wishing them an
easy fast as Ramadan began on Wednesday.
“We are marking this
important month at a time of our efforts to reach direct negotiations
with the Palestinians and move forward peace agreements with our Arab
neighbors,” he said. “I know that you are partners in this goal, and
request your help, support and prayers” to reach “peaceful, harmonious