Peres visitors to focus on Goldstone

Goldstone to be focus of

lieberman Sikorski poland 248 88 (photo credit: )
lieberman Sikorski poland 248 88
(photo credit: )
The Goldstone Report and its ramifications will surely be high on the agenda during talks that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be holding in the coming days with leaders attending Shimon Peres's Facing Tomorrow Conference, which opens in the capital on Tuesday evening. Among those he is expected to meet are US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Quartet envoy Tony Blair. The Prime Minister's Office on Monday would not divulge the nature of Netanyahu's response to a joint letter sent on Friday by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urging the premier, among other things, to set up an independent inquiry into Operation Cast Lead. The letter was sent after Britain and France decided, along with Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan and Angola, not to vote on the UN Human Rights Council resolution that sent the Goldstone Report to the UN General Assembly. Brown and Sarkozy also called on Netanyahu to allow humanitarian convoys access to Gaza, end settlement activity in the West Bank, and restart negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu's office said none of those positions were new. Those inside the government advocating an independent inquiry into the Gaza offensive have argued that this would be one way to remove the threat of Israel being hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, since the ICC does not take up cases where credible and independent investigations are being conducted by the countries involved. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon pointed out that the military was already investigating various incidents that occurred during Operation Cast Lead. He added that Israel had to be careful when conducting an independent or military investigation not to do anything that would jeopardize the defensive ability of soldiers and commanders in the field during a future battle. Therefore, he said, any investigation should be for fact-finding purposes and not of a punitive nature. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Ayalon, meanwhile, both thanked Mexico's Deputy Foreign Minister Lourdes Aranda on Monday for Mexico's decision to abstain in Friday's vote. Lourdes was in the country to head Mexico's delegation to the fourth annual diplomatic dialogue with Israel that dealt with a wide range of bilateral issues, from international cooperation to educational and cultural exchange. Ayalon, at the beginning of the meeting, asked for Mexico's continued support in the UN Security Council, where it is currently a member. The flurry of activity over the Goldstone Report come amid continuing negotiations in Washington between the US and both the Israel and Palestinian delegations. Netanyahu's envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's chief of staff Michael Herzog held talks in Washington last week with US envoy George Mitchell, and are expected to return there this week as well. Mitchell is also holding talks with Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat in an attempt to put together a package that would re-launch negotiations. The terms of reference for the talks - whether a time line will be set for an agreement, and whether the stated goal would be a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines - are among the issues of contention.