MSN News | PTI | 01/09/2010
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the killing of four Israelis by the Islamist group Hamas in the West Bank, describing it as an attempt to undermine the crucial direct talks between Israel and the Palestine leadership. "This attack must be recognized for what it is: a cynical and blatant attempt to undermine the direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations starting tomorrow," Ban said.
Noting that the attack comes just ahead of the peace talks between Israeli and Palestinians that begin tomorrow in Washington, Ban urged parties not to be sidetracked by the attack. "He (Ban) extends his condolences to the families of the victims and calls for the perpetrators of this crime to be promptly brought to justice," a statement from his office said. "Negotiations are the only way for the parties to resolve all final status issues. The Secretary-General calls upon both sides to show leadership, courage, and responsibility to realize the aspirations of both people," it said. The UN has also called for the perpetrators of the attack to be apprehended and prosecuted. "We condemn this murderous act and call for those responsible to be brought to justice," Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement issued in Jerusalem.
BBC News | 20 August 2010 | 18:11 GMT
Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resume direct negotiations for the first time in 20 months, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been invited to Washington on 2 September to start the talks. They have agreed to place a one-year time limit on the direct negotiations. But correspondents say prospects of a comprehensive deal are slim, as serious disagreements exist on the core issues. Sensitive areas – including the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied territory, the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the right of return – will be difficult to overcome.
Speaking at the state department, Mrs Clinton said President Barack Obama had been encouraged by the leadership of Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas, and had invited them to Washington to “relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year”. “President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend, in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success,” she added. Mr Obama will hold meetings with the four leaders, followed by a dinner with them, on 1 September. Tony Blair, the special representative of the Middle East Quartet – which comprises the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – has also been invited.
A trilateral meeting at the state department between Mrs Clinton, Mr Abbas and Mr Netanyahu will formally relaunch the direct peace talks the following day. “As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past, there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles,” Mrs Clinton said. “But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region,” she added. “These negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterised by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.” Continue reading
U.S. envoy George Mitchell resumed his push for direct Middle East peace talks on Tuesday with signs coming from Palestinian leaders that they might bow to pressure and agree to meet the Israelis face-to-face. Mitchell was due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to address questions from both before returning home on Wednesday. The stalled peace process resumed in May after an 18-month hiatus, but only at the level of indirect “proximity talks”, in which Mitchell acts as a shuttling, third-party diplomat. U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants direct talks to resume by September before a partial moratorium on Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank is set to expire, with possibly dire consequences for the process.
Abbas hinted on Monday that he might soon bow to international pressure, end the impasse and resume direct negotiations for the first time in almost two years. Netanyahu has said he is ready to begin immediately. “Until now, we did not agree,” Abbas said. “We may face other pressures that we cannot endure. If that happens, I will study this thing with the leadership … and take the appropriate decision,” he told reporters at his office.
Abbas insists that direct talks tackle all territory Israel has occupied since capturing them in the 1967 Middle East war. He includes Arab East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state and the Jordan Valley, where Israel might insist on continuing to secure the Jordan border with its own forces. Abbas also wants a total halt to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, and an agreed Continue reading
BBC News | 29 July 2010 | 15:25 GMT
The Arab League has endorsed direct Palestinian peace talks with the Israelis, but has left the timing to the Palestinians, officials said. The US has been pushing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to restart the direct talks, suspended since 2008. Mr Abbas has demanded a settlement freeze and a return to 1967 borders as a precondition of direct talks. Correspondents say the move by the Arab League makes it likely the talks will resume in the coming months. The Palestinian president is now expected to return to Ramallah and seek endorsement for the direct talks from a meeting of Palestinian factions, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated he wants direct talks to start as soon as possible. In response to the Arab League decision, his office released a statement saying he was "ready to start, already in the next few days, direct and frank talks with the Palestinian Authority".
The Arab League agreed in principle to direct talks with Israel provided the Palestinians saw fit, said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who chaired a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. "Of course, there is agreement, but agreement over the principles of what will be discussed and the manner of the direct negotiations," he said. But the timing of the direct talks was "a matter for the Palestinian side to decide", he said. Mr Netanyahu has said he is ready to discuss all the core issues of the decades-old conflict, and has accused the Palestinians of avoiding direct talks. Mr Abbas wants Israel to agree to a complete halt in settlement construction and to accept a Palestinian state in territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Reuters | Sun Jul 18, 2010 | 9:45pm IST
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Palestinian and Israeli leaders and the U.S. peace envoy on Sunday with a return to direct talks on the agenda, but a breakthrough still seemed distant. Egypt has long played a mediating role in Middle East politics, but it is unusual for Cairo to host different leaders on the same day. Shuttle diplomacy has been the preferred way of operating. None of the visitors saw the others, instead having back-to-back talks with Mubarak, who was flanked by his foreign minister and top intelligence officer. U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who has shuttled between the main players since a four-month window for indirect talks was agreed in May, held an hour-long meeting, then hurriedly left the presidency without briefing reporters. Minutes after Mitchell’s convoy of tinted-window white cars rolled out, a convoy of black cars rolled in, escorting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Mitchell met on Saturday in Ramallah. Half an hour later Abbas was gone, again without speaking to reporters. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived soon after Abbas’ departure. The Egyptian state news agency MENA reported that Mubarak’s talks with all three men focused on "efforts to create the conditions necessary to advance the peace process and achieve a two-state solution". It did not elaborate.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters after the meetings that direct talks were not possible yet, but there was still time. "We are still hopeful that we can bridge this gap. The gap between the needs for security for Israel and the borders for the Palestinians," he said. "They (the Israelis) claim that they are determined to offer the Palestinians a good deal," he said, adding that Egypt was encouraging the United States to keep pushing for face-to-face talks. In a statement after the talks, Netanyahu said: "President Mubarak represents the aspiration for widening the cycle of peace and preserving the stability and security of the peoples of the region. I again found in him a key partner in achieving those important goals."
Reuters | Sat Jul 17, 2010 | 3:14pm IST
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must agree to the idea of a third party guarding the borders of a future Palestinian state before direct peace talks can begin. In an interview published on Saturday, Abbas said Israel must also agree in principle to an equitable land swap that would compensate the Palestinians for West Bank land absorbed by Jewish settlements in any peace deal. The remarks were the clearest statement yet of what Abbas wants from Israel before he agrees to move to face-to-face negotiations that Washington wants the sides to begin. Abbas met U.S. Middle peace envoy George Mitchell on Saturday in Ramallah. Mitchell, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, is mediating indirect peace talks under way for two months. The talks are about halfway through their agreed four-month lifetime. They are set to conclude in September, around the same time as a partial freeze that Netanyahu ordered last November on Israeli settlement building on occupied West Bank territory.
Israel says the current "proximity talks" are wasting time. Netanyahu says he is ready to begin direct talks with Abbas right away. But the Palestinian president is wary of talking to an Israeli leader he believes is not willing to make an offer the Palestinians could accept. Speaking to the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad, Abbas said he wanted Israel to agree "in principle" to the idea that a third party take on a security role in a future Palestinian state to be founded on land occupied by Israel in a 1967 war. "Now what is required from Israel is for it to say that these ideas are, in principle, acceptable," he said. "That means: do they accept that the land is the 1967 borders and that there be, in the Palestinian land, a third party. If they agree to that, this is what we would consider the progress that we want and that would make us go to direct negotiations," he said. The Palestinians aim to establish their state in
AP | Yahoo | 11/07/2010 | 03:18 pm
The Palestinian president, who is under U.S. pressure to resume direct talks with Israel, said that doing so under current circumstances would be pointless. The remarks by Mahmoud Abbas underline his determination not to return to the table unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commits to an internationally mandated settlement freeze and agrees to pick up talks where they left off under the Israeli leader’s predecessor in Dec. 2008. Netanyahu hasn’t agreed to either demand, and has so far curbed but not frozen settlement activity. He insists negotiations should be held without any preconditions. President Barack Obama called Abbas last week, following the U.S. president’s meeting with Netanyahu. The White House said Obama and Abbas talked about ways to revive direct talks soon.
"We have presented our vision and thoughts and said that if progress is made, we will move to direct talks, but that if no progress is made, it (direct negotiations) will be futile," Abbas said in a speech late Saturday. "If they (the Israelis) say `come and let’s start negotiations from zero,’ that is futile and pointless," Abbas added. The Palestinians say they that after 17 years of intermittent talks, they don’t want to start all over again, especially with an Israeli leader who has retreated from positions presented by his predecessors. In the absence of direct talks, a U.S. envoy has been shuttling between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent weeks. Abbas’ aide Yasser Abed Rabbo told Palestinian radio Sunday that the Palestinians don’t want to enter open-ended negotiations with Israel. "There must be a … timetable, a framework for these negotiations," he said. "We will not enter new negotiations that could take more than 10 years."
BBC News | Thursday, 13 May 2010 | 09:06 GMT
The US administration has warned against an Israeli government announcement it could continue to demolish buildings in East Jerusalem. An unnamed Obama administration official told Israeli media the US "calls on both sides to avoid inflammatory actions in Jerusalem". On Wednesday an Israeli minister said the demolition of illegally built homes of Arabs could continue. Last week indirect talks began between Israelis and Palestinians. The US State Department official was quoted as saying that they hoped the indirect negotiations, known as "proximity talks", would lead to direct negotiations between the parties and steps that would "resolve this issue once and for all".
"If either side takes significant actions during the proximity talks that we judge would seriously undermine trust, we will respond and hold them accountable and ensure negotiations will continue," the official said. On Wednesday Interior Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch had told Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, that there was no government order barring the demolition of homes illegally built by Arabs in East Jerusalem. He said that demolitions had been postponed in recent months to avoid harming the attempts by US Senator George Mitchell to reopen indirect talks. "As of right now there is no directive for police not to implement demolition orders," he said.
BBC NEWS | 2010/05/09 | 11:04:51 GMT
Indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have begun, the Palestinian chief negotiator has said. Saeb Erekat spoke after a meeting between US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr Mitchell will now shuttle between the two sides, with hopes that direct talks can start within four months. The start of indirect talks in March was halted by a row over the building of new Israeli homes in East Jerusalem. Palestinians broke off direct peace talks after Israel launched a military offensive on Gaza in late 2008. "The proximity talks have started," Mr Erekat said in the West Bank city of Ramallah, with Mr Mitchell standing beside him.
Mr Mitchell will shuttle between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to narrow their differences on the terms of Palestinian statehood. He has already held several meetings with Mr Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past week. Correspondents say the talks mark the first concrete achievement in the Obama administration’s Middle East peace efforts.
Mr Netanyahu said on Sunday that he hoped the indirect talks would quickly move to direct negotiations. "Peace cannot be brought about from a distance, or with a remote control," he told a meeting of the Israeli cabinet. "We are neighbours of the Palestinians and they are our neighbours. Over time one cannot assume that that we will reach decisions and agreements on critical issues such as security and our national interests and their interests if we don’t sit in the same room." The talks went ahead a day after receiving the backing of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The PLO’s Executive Committee decided to back the talks after a
BBC NEWS | 2010/05/05 | 19:12:44 GMT
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the start of indirect talks with the Palestinians. The three-hour meeting in Jerusalem was described as "good and productive" by the US state department. But no announcements were made and Israeli officials have said the two are to meet again on Thursday. Mr Mitchell is due to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday in Ramallah. The meeting with Mr Netanyahu had been planned as the start of "proximity talks" but the Palestine Liberation Organisation has still to agree to them. The PLO said it would meet on Saturday to finally decide if talks can proceed.
Mr Abbas said on Wednesday that the indirect talks should last four months, after which the Palestinians would consult with the Arab League on whether to continue. The negotiations need to immediately grapple with the toughest issues at the heart of the conflict, he said. He said first on the agenda should be the borders of a future Palestinian state. But the issue, connected to the building of Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, has been a stumbling block. The talks were delayed in March by a row which strained Israeli-US relations.
BBC News | Friday, 30 April 2010 | 19:15 GMT
Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks are set to start next week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says. Mrs. Clinton told reporters in Washington that US special envoy George Mitchell would be returning to the region next week. Plans to launch the indirect negotiations failed last month over a row about Israeli plans to build 1,600 homes in occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since 2008. "We will be starting with proximity talks next week," Mrs. Clinton said. "Ultimately we want to see parties in direct negotiations and working out all the difficult issues that they must." Washington expected that Arab foreign ministers meeting on Saturday would endorse the new talks, she added. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "We are making every possible effort to begin these talks. But the official decision will be made by the Arab foreign ministers and the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organisation] executive committee." Israeli officials have not publicly commented on Mrs. Clinton’s remarks.
The US has been struggling to get the proximity talks under way. These were knocked off course by an announcement in March that Israel had approved plans for the new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo during a visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden. The Palestinians – who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state – then pulled out of the scheduled indirect talks last month in protest. Mr Mitchell’s team has been actively trying to extract guarantees from the Israelis to bring the Palestinians back to the proposed talks.
BBC NEWS | Saturday, 27 March 2010 | 16:21 GMT
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled out attending indirect "proximity talks" with Israel unless it halts the construction of settlements. Mr Abbas told an Arab League summit he would not resume negotiations as long as Israel maintained the "status quo" in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He was seeking support after Israel appeared to refuse to back down in a row with the US over East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Israeli tanks have withdrawn from Gaza after an overnight incursion. It came after the killing of two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian militants in the worst fighting in the territory for more than a year. Hamas said its fighters had been involved in the initial border clash, but insisted their actions were defensive. Israel said it began when its troops spotted militants planting explosives along the border. Reports said one Palestinian was killed during the Israeli incursion.
In a speech to the Arab League summit in the Libyan town of Sirte on Saturday, President Abbas demanded an immediate end to Israel’s building on occupied territory, particularly East Jerusalem. "We cannot resume indirect negotiations as long as Israel maintains its settlement policy and the status quo," he said. "Negotiations on the borders [of a future Palestinian state] would be absurd if Israel decides on the ground the border," he added. "We have always said that Jerusalem is the jewel in the crown and the gate to peace." Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are held illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, described the Israeli position as "madness". "This leads Israel to isolation," he told the conference. "By adopting such an attitude, Israel is not only violating international law, but also violating human feelings, conscience and history." The Arab League’s Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, said its
Reuters | Mon Mar 22, 2010 | 7:13pm IST
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday that Israel faces "difficult but necessary choices" on Mideast peace and pledged to push for biting sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. Clinton, speaking to the influential pro-Israel AIPAC lobby group after a turbulent stretch in US-Israel relations, said the Obama administration had a "rock solid" commitment to Israel’s peace and security. But she singled out Israel’s policy of expanding Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as an obstacle to progress which could imperil US efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. "New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need," Clinton said. "It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America’s unique ability to play a role — an essential role, I might add — in the peace process."
The issue of Jewish settlements has soured US ties with its closest Mideast ally as Israel approved new construction in East Jerusalem during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden, spurring Palestinians to say they would pull out of the indirect talks that Washington only just managed to launch. Clinton is due to meet visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Monday and US Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell is in the region seeking to get the talks back on track. Netanyahu, who arrived in Washington earlier on Monday, has proposed a set of confidence-building measures following the settlement fracas, but said on Sunday Israel would not give up its right to build Jewish settlements around Jerusalem.
AP | msnbc.com | 8:39 pm ET| March 19, 2010
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has suggested that the United States and Israel have found a way around the worst disagreement the two allies have faced in years while international diplomats set goals for new US-backed peace talks aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state. The so-called Quartet group of Mideast negotiators met in the Russian capital Friday to set the stage for peace talks in which the United States would be a go-between. Those indirect talks would be the first under the Democratic Obama administration and the hawkish Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At a news conference after the meeting, Clinton spoke approvingly of indications Netanyahu is ready to address US concerns about new Jewish housing that complicates peace efforts.
"What I heard from the prime minister in response to the requests we made was useful and productive," she said, "and we are continuing our discussions with him and his government." That was a far cry from Clinton’s earlier condemnation of the housing plan in east Jerusalem as an insult, delivered for maximum effect during a visit to Jerusalem by Vice President Joe Biden. Clinton had a curt conversation with Netanyahu a week ago in which she laid out US expectations from here, including a rollback to the housing plan, a gesture of good faith to the Palestinians and an express
NBC News | 6:28 pm ET | March 18, 2010
The diplomatic rift between the United States and Israel appeared to widen Thursday over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to call Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with an explanation of Israel’s east Jerusalem building plan, US sources say. Last Friday, Clinton phoned Netanyahu to strongly criticize Israel’s announcement of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to the region to promote indirect talks between Palestinians and Israelis. Clinton requested answers from him on how Israel was planning to proceed. The State Department expected a response days ago and even announced that Netanyahu would call before Clinton left Washington at noon Wednesday for a previously scheduled trip to Russia. However, in a sign of the fractured ties between the two governments, senior administration officials traveling on the overnight flight to Moscow with Clinton told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that Netanyahu did not call.
Biden phoned Netanyahu Wednesday urging him to make the call, but apparently he did not persuade the Israeli premier, NBC said. Pending resolution of the latest flap, there will not be indirect talks between Israel and Palestinians led by Special Representative George Mitchell. "As we’ve said, before we move ahead with further meetings, we would expect a call from Prime Minister Netanyahu. And what he tells us will inform what we do next," a senior official on Clinton’s plane told NBC. NBC’s