FM Livni rejects timeline for peace deal

Fayad says he will be working with Barak on on the implementation of the "Road Map"'s first phase.

Setting a deadline for a peace deal would be counterproductive, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday, after her Palestinian counterpart made a timeline a precondition for talks. Livni, who heads the Israeli negotiating team, said she would meet again later Thursday with the top Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qureia. The two sides are trying to write a joint document of principles for a future peace deal, as a basis for a US-hosted Mideast conference this fall. The conference is meant to relaunch peace talks that collapsed in 2001. Earlier this week, Qureia said there could be no negotiations on a final peace deal without setting a deadline for establishing a Palestinian state. "The Israeli prime minister has stated that he will not accept a timetable, and we say we will not accept negotiations without a timetable," he said. Livni said Thursday that a timeline is a bad idea. "Creating timetables, which are often not carried out, as it happened every time in the past, creates expectations that are then not carried out, and create violence and terror," she said in a joint news conference in Tel Aviv with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "I hope the Palestinians understand that it's not in the Israeli interest to seek delays, but to implement as is necessary, based on the required stages," she said. Steinmeier, meanwhile, said he has presented Israeli and Palestinian leaders with an EU plan for aid to the Palestinians. The plan is meant to prevent overlap in aid projects and focus on specific areas, such as strengthening the Palestinian police, promoting education and aiding small and mid-sized businesses. In Berlin, the German Foreign Ministry announced it is providing €1 million to help feed refugee families in the Gaza Strip. The money will go to the UN Relief and Works Agency, which assists refugees, the statement said. Also Thursday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad confirmed that he will be working with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on trying to carry out the first phase of the dormant "road map" peace plan. The US security coordinator in the region, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, is to join the two in the effort. The US-backed road map was launched in 2003 and envisioned the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005. It consists of three phases, with the two sides gradually moving forward in meeting their obligations. The Palestinians have argued that they have made good progress in recent weeks by disarming dozens of operatives, either voluntarily or by force. They said Israel has done little so far. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that the road map is still the framework for peacemaking. "I am confident that at the end of the day we can reach an agreement," he said in Tel Aviv. "Then we will have to implement it, we will have to implement it according to the phases of the road map." Olmert said there are obstacles to success of the conference, primarily opposition of Hamas. He pledged to make the most of the opportunity. It might not immediately bring peace, Olmert said, "but one big step in the middle east is something that can save the lives of many people and promise a brighter future for all of us." Fayad said the three have not started working yet, but that implementing the first phase of the road map will be key to the success of the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. "If we want the Annapolis conference to be a successful one, and if we want the peace process to get back on track, we have to implement the first phase of the road map, and it is possible to implement it," he said.