Rice due here to push Annapolis process

Diplomatic officials: Livni will urge secretary of state to jettison plans for Israeli-Palestinian document.

Livni Rice 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Livni Rice 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to arrive on Monday in another attempt to advance the Annapolis process and produce some kind of Israeli-Palestinian document before the end of the year. Israeli diplomatic officials said Saturday night that if Rice was trying to get the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a document to be presented at the United National General Assembly in mid-September spelling out what the sides had already agreed upon, she would be unlikely to find an ally in Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Rice is scheduled to meet with Livni on Tuesday morning. According to the officials, Livni is keen on getting Rice to ditch the idea at the present time, concerned that such a document might complicate her Kadima Party primary race as it would likely highlight concessions Israel would be willing to make on land, and might indicate that talks on Jerusalem have been taking place. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the officials said, was not opposed to such a document coming out at this time, though he still believed that it was possible to reach a more comprehensive agreement with the Palestinian Authority this year, with the issue of Jerusalem pushed off to a latter date. US diplomatic officials denied that Rice was trying to produce some kind of document now to bring to the UN General Assembly meeting on September 18. Israeli officials, however, said the General Assembly would be a perfect platform for presenting such a document, and would also be a convenient location because the Middle East Quartet - made up of the US, Russia, the EU and the UN - was scheduled to meet on the sidelines to discuss the diplomatic process. Israeli diplomatic officials said there had been no indication that the composition of the Quartet would change, despite the tensions between the US and EU with Russia over the Georgian situation. One of the issues that was originally expected to be discussed at the September Quartet meeting was an international meeting on the Middle East in Moscow, as a follow-up to last November's Annapolis Conference. Rice, who was last in Israel in June and has been here more than 20 times during her tenure as secretary of state, is scheduled to have a dinner meeting on Monday evening with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at his Tel Aviv residence. On Tuesday morning she is set to meet Olmert for breakfast, followed by a meeting with Livni. Israeli officials said that chief PA negotiator Ahmed Qurei would likely take part in that session as well. Rice is then scheduled to go to Ramallah for talks with the PA's President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. She is set to leave later that day. Israeli diplomatic officials said that while the Russian-Georgian crisis, and Syria's interest in taking advantage of the situation to acquire advanced Russian missile systems, were likely to be discussed during the visit, Rice's focus would remain on the Annapolis process.