Shalom: Israeli-Palestinian talks to be renewed Tuesday

Likud minister speaks with PA's Erekat about terms for renewed talks while on visit to Jericho.

Silvan Shalom and Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Silvan Shalom and Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli-Palestinian talks are likely to be renewed on July 30 in the United States, Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) said on Thursday in Jericho, while making the first visit by a high-ranking Israeli official to Area A of the West Bank in over four years.
“We hope that the talks will begin next week in Washington between Israeli and Palestinian representatives,” Shalom said.
“We in Israel are ready to go there next week, we have said it to the Americans,” he said.
“As I understand today, I think the Palestinians will decide to come next week, but I cannot speak on behalf of the Palestinians. But if they do so, the negotiations will start next Tuesday,” he said.
He spoke with reporters at a press conference with Palestinian Planning Affairs Minister Muhammad Abu Ramadan, Jordanian Interior Minister Hussein Hazza al-Majali and Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida.
They spoke about the peace process and the pending opening of a new industrial park in Jericho in 2014, in which the Japanese have invested $200 million.
Shalom also held a 20-minute private meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat while in Jericho’s InterContinental Hotel. Shalom later told journalists that they spoke about the terms for renewed talks. He added that he understood that the Palestinians have not completed the approval process for direct negotiations, which have been largely frozen since December 2008.
But US Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement of renewed talks, Shalom said, had already led to a different atmosphere with the Palestinians, which was evident in his meetings that morning.
“Both sides want to renew the talks,” he said.
He added that he believed it was too late for the Palestinians to pull out.
The presence of a Jordanian minister in Jericho this morning is “very telling,” Shalom said.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II has invested a lot of energy behind the scenes in bridging the gap between Israel and the Palestinians, Shalom said.
There are always some last minute difficulties when embarking on a process like this, Shalom said. But then once the process starts, it flows, he added.
Israel, he said, was able to reject Palestinian demands for preconditions including talks based on the pre-1967 lines and a freeze of West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians, he said, had wanted a commitment that talks would deal first with borders. But in the end, talks would resume on all core issues, Silvan said.
“They wanted a freeze before the talks and during, but we did not agree,” Shalom said.
“At the end, even the Americans understood that to renew the talks in a real way that would lead to peace, you have to get rid of preconditions,” Shalom said.
However, he explained that the government would vote on the release of Palestinian prisoners once all the problems relating to the start of talks have been worked out.
“This is a painful, difficult and problematic step,” he said. But it should not be confused with Palestinian demands with regard to the final status agreement, Shalom.
In Washington at a State Department briefing, deputy spokeswoman Maria Harf said that no final date had been set for the resumption of talks.
“We expect the parties to meet here in Washington soon. We would caution against any conjecture and speculation,” Harf said.
At a joint press conference in New York with Kerry, United Nations Secretary- General Ban-Ki Moon said, “I strongly urge the leaders of Palestine and Israel to seize this opportunity and respond positively and courageously so that the twostate solution can be realized as soon as possible.”
Kerry referred to the conflict as the “granddaddy of them all.”
He said, “Both leaders in the region, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, have made a courageous decision to try to return to final-status talks. And it’s my hope that [this] will be able to happen as procedures are put in place by both countries in order to empower that.”
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the PA had yet to receive an invitation from the United States to come to Washington.
“The Palestinian delegation is ready,” he said. “We are committed to the meeting that was agreed to be held in Washington to discuss the issues.”
When the Washington meeting occurs, Israel is expected to send Justice Minister Tzipi LIvni and special envoy Yitzhak Molcho. It is unclear who would travel to Washington from the Palestinian side.
Reuters contributed to this report.