Foreign Ministry: Peace talks on the right track

Livni, Qureia launch working c'tees to study issues of water, environment, economic and judicial matters.

Livni cool 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Livni cool 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to set up three committees to deal with civil affairs issues: water and the environment; legal matters; and economic subjects. The move came as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held another round of talks Sunday with the head of the Palestinian final status negotiating team, former Palestinian Authority prime minister Ahmed Qurei. The regular negotiating teams were joined by 20 experts - 10 from each side - who will make up the core of the three new committees. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel hailed the move as an indication that the negotiations were on the right track. "It's definitely a sign of progress," Mekel told The Jerusalem Post. "An indication that the negotiations are moving forward." The idea is that the new panels will meet regularly, in parallel with the main negotiating teams, which will stick to the core issues of borders, refugees and Jerusalem. The Israeli representatives on the new committees include the directors-general of a number of ministries who met with Livni last week to draw up the government's position on a variety of the technical issues. The Palestinian experts include five former PA ministers. Up till now it has been difficult to assess the state of the final status talks, which were launched in the wake of November's Annapolis gathering, as both sides observed a policy of discretion fearing any publicity could damage the chances of success. Both parties seem to have backtracked over recent weeks from the initial goal of clinching a peace agreement this year, before the next US administration takes over. Both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad spoke publicly of a declaration of principles as being a more realistic prospect for 2008 than a fully-fledged peace deal. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that what was decided on Sunday was that when experts are needed they will be brought in by the parties.