Mitchell: Show restraint, avoid clashes

Barak to US envoy: Don’t let day-to-day problems divert talks.

Mitchell Barak 311 (photo credit: JPOST.COM STAFF)
Mitchell Barak 311
(photo credit: JPOST.COM STAFF)
Laboring under the cloud of the flotilla episode and its aftermath, US envoy George Mitchell held separate meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak Thursday as part of his fourth round of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
One diplomatic official quipped that it was probably a good thing the talks were indirect, because if they had been direct, on May 31, when the IDF raided the Gaza flotilla and nine people on the boat were killed, PA President Mahmoud Abbas would have been forced to cancel the negotiations.
Mitchell, prior to meeting Barak, said he intended to “pursue the discussions now under way, which we hope will lead to direct negotiation, which in turn will lead to a comprehensive agreement.”
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He added that this was a period in which he urged all concerned to “exercise restraint” and to “avoid confrontation.”
Diplomatic officials said that since the raid on the Turkish-flagged boat, the US, Israel and the PA had been struggling to ensure that any easing of the restriction on goods allowed into Gaza be credited to the Palestinian Authority and Abbas, and not to Hamas.
One way of doing this, the official said, was to place PA representatives at the crossings into Gaza where the cargo would enter.
Acknowledging that the talks with the Palestinians had been divertedand overshadowed by the flotilla affair, Barak said before his meetingwith Mitchell that he hoped the US envoy would revive the intensity ofthe indirect talks, which “we hope and believe need and can lead todirect negotiations.”
Barak said there was a need to rise above the day-to-day affairs and deal with the “true layer” of the diplomatic process.
The defense minister has spoken this week in closed forums about theneed for a far-reaching Israeli initiative in the diplomatic process inorder to improve ties with the US and get Washington to help Israelrelieve its current diplomatic isolation.
Mitchell, who arrived Wednesday evening, is scheduled to meetPalestinian officials on Friday in Ramallah, and possibly go to Cairoon Saturday for talks as well.