US: Direct peace talks are 'imminent'

Israel-Palestinian dialogue expected to resume early September.

Netanyahu meets Mitchell 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Netanyahu meets Mitchell 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON  — The Obama administration said Thursday it is near to securing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct peace talks. Some US officials said an announcement could be imminent.
The State Department said an agreement was "very, very close" but that details were still being worked out. An announcement could come as early as Friday or Saturday, said administration officials familiar with the matter. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the ongoing diplomacy.
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"We think we are very, very close to a decision by the parties to enter into direct negotiations," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters. "We think we're well positioned to get there."
To that end, he said, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had called Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad late Wednesday and spoken Thursday with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the special representative of the "Quartet" of Mideast peacemakers — the US, the UN, the European Union and Russia.
Officials said tentative plans call for the Quartet and the US to release separate statements saying the stalled talks will resume early next month in either the US or Egypt. The US statement, expected to be issued in Clinton's name, and the Quartet statement would serve as invitations for the talks, they said.
The Israelis and Palestinians would then accept, the officials said.
Crowley declined comment on the specific arrangements but suggested multiple statements were in the works.
"As part of the Quartet we are prepared to demonstrate our support for the parties as they move towards this decision," he said. "But we, the United States, have always played a special role within this effort, and we will be prepared to assist the parties going forward in moving towards a successful negotiation. So we can do both."
Details of the timing and location of talks remained unclear on Thursday. The US officials said they were still shooting for around Sept. 1 in either Washington, Cairo or the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheik.