'US expects direct Israeli-Palestinian talks'

US envoy Shapiro says sides should exchange "comprehensive proposals."

Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R) (photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R)
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Both the US and the Quartet expect Israel and the Palestinians to meet in direct negotiations and exchange comprehensive proposals on issues of security and territory, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said Thursday.
Shapiro, speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv, said this position had been made clear to both sides.
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His comments are significant because the Palestinians have said in recent days that while they have presented the Quartet – consisting of the US, EU, UN and Russia – with compre- hensive proposals, Israel has refused to do so, creating the impression that Israel is obstructing the process.
Israel’s position is that the comprehensive proposals that the Quartet discussed in September when it drew up a new framework for trying to bring the sides back to the table are to come out of negotiations between the sides, and not as result of the Quartet mediating between them.
Shapiro’s comments appear to support Israel’s interpretation.
Quartet representatives are scheduled to return to Jerusalem next week for the third round of separate talks with Israel and the Palestinians since the body launched its sofar- unsuccessful new framework for talks on September 23.
Regarding Iran, Shapiro said there was “extraordinarily close cooperation” between Israel and the US on this matter, and that the two sides discussed this issue more than any other subject.
His comments follow a recent remark by US Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said he did not know whether Israel would give the US advance notice of an attack on Iran.
Shapiro would not directly address Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments during a closed meeting last Saturday at the Saban Forum in Washington, in which she reportedly warned about threats to Israel’s democracy.
The ambassador did say, however, that “we believe Israel is an extremely vibrant democracy with very strong institutions,” and that the US had “confidence” in Israel’s ability to work out the various issues on the agenda, such as the proposed legislation on non-governmental organizations and the stiffening of libel laws.
Asked about the situation in Egypt, Shapiro said the US had made clear to the Egyptians that it expected Cairo to remain fully committed to all its international obligations, including peace with Jerusalem.
Calling the treaty a “fundamental pillar of stability in the region,” Shapiro said that “our firm belief and expectation is that the treaty will remain in place, and needs to remain in place, and we have communicated that to the Egyptians.”
Shapiro, who is considered close to US President Barack Obama, said he had no news regarding a possible Obama visit to Israel before the 2012 presidential elections. The president “does look forward to coming to Israel,” he said, but he had no information about when such a visit might take place.