Lieberman seeks direct talks with PA

Lieberman tells Danes th

lieberman in denmark 248.88 (photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
lieberman in denmark 248.88
(photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday Israel and Palestinians need to start direct talks to keep the Mideast peace process alive. "It's important to start with direct talks between us and the Palestinians," Lieberman said as he headed into a meeting with his Dutch counterpart, Maxime Verhagen in The Hague. "We say from the first day of this government that we really want direct talks and I think this would help to keep the political process alive," Lieberman added. Lieberman also accused Iran of using international talks on its nuclear program "to buy time." He did not elaborate and took no questions from reporters. Verhagen said he would discuss with Lieberman issues including the peace process, the plight of Palestinians living in Gaza and Iran's nuclear ambitions. "The Netherlands is worried about the extremely difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza," Verhagen said, and urged Israel to open Gaza's borders to humanitarian aid. He also urged both Israel and the Palestinians to investigate alleged war crimes in the Gaza conflict, saying there should be "no impunity." Lieberman was visiting Dutch Parliament later Wednesday. He had been due to meet privately with anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, a strong supporter of Israel. But Wilders said in a text message to The Associated Press he had called off the meeting because he was feeling unwell. The Dutch Labor Party, part of the country's ruling coalition, criticized Verhagen for his meeting the Israeli, calling Lieberman an "extreme right politician." Protesters also planned to the demonstrate later Wednesday in The Hague and Amsterdam against Lieberman's visit. In a Tuesday meeting with Danish Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen, Lieberman said the rules of war need to be changed to allow democracies to combat terrorist threats. "These organizations use women and children as human shields. They also hide in hospitals and school, as Hamas did in Gaza," Lieberman said. But the laws of war do not address this situation and instead focus on conflicts between nations and armies, Lieberman said. He spoke with Mikkelsen as part of the continuing diplomatic campaign the government has waged to solicit support in the international community to reject the findings of the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of war crimes for its military actions in Gaza last winter. Israel has argued that the report's conclusions could make it difficult for all democracies to combat terrorism. The two men spoke of the global war on terror and Lieberman said that Israel would be happy to share its expertise in this arena with the Danish. Lieberman is on a five-day trip to Denmark and the Netherlands with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon to talk about regional issues and to strengthen bilateral ties. They also discussed the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the role the US has played as mediator. In his meeting with his Danish counterpart, Per Stig Muller, Lieberman criticized the Arab states for their lack of support for the peace process. These nations "contribute less than the rest of the world to improving the lives of Palestinians on the ground and the normalization of relations between the Palestinians and Israel," he said. He added that the United States was the only mediator that could push the Palestinians to talk with Israel. "Israel is willing to open direct negotiations immediately, but in light of their current stance, only the US can bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table." He was not the only Israeli leader to speak of the central role the US plays in the peace process. "The presidency of Barack Obama provides a rare opportunity to reach a real peace with the Palestinians," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said before he met with US special envoy George Mitchell in Washington on Tuesday.