Monday, June 8, 2009

U.S. pushes for Israeli-Palestinian discussions

U.S. pushes for Israeli-Palestinian discussions
By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The United States said on Monday it would make a new push for Israeli-Palestinian talks and U.S. envoy George Mitchell, en route to the region, hoped to lay the groundwork.
"The president has told me to exert all efforts to create the circumstance when the parties can begin immediate discussions," Mitchell told reporters at a Palestinian donors' conference in Oslo, referring to renewed negotiations that President Barack Obama has pledged to pursue.
In the Gaza Strip, militants opposed to a dialogue tried to blast open Israel's border fence.
Israeli forces killed three Palestinian militants who had planned to breach the border fence with the Hamas-run territory by detonating explosives they had tied to five horses, a military spokesman said.
Middle East envoy Tony Blair said after the Oslo meeting Obama's push for a peace deal should be embraced by Arab states.
"For the Arab countries in particular we need their support... We need their support for the Palestinian Authority, their support for the peace process, their support in coming to a new ... understanding about how we can establish peace in the Middle East.
"President Obama needs something to come back to him, he's reaching out but he needs people to reach back and I think the next few months is all about seeing whether we can create the circumstances where that happens," he told Reuters.
Mitchell was to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.
Netanyahu is at odds with Obama over the president's demand to halt Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and has not endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state, a cornerstone of U.S. Middle East policy.
The Israeli leader is to make a major policy speech on Sunday in which a senior official said Netanyahu would "articulate his vision on how to move forward in the peace process with the Palestinians and with the larger Arab world."
Netanyahu has said he is ready to meet Abbas and begin talks on economic, security and political issues, which he has not specified.
Palestinians have rejected his proposed shift of focus away from territorial issues, whose complexity, Netanyahu has said, has frustrated U.S.-backed attempts to reach a final peace deal.
Abbas said renewed talks would be pointless unless Netanyahu first stopped settlement activity and endorsed Palestinian statehood as part of a 2003 peace "road map" that also calls on the Palestinian Authority to crack down on militants.
"If Israel rejects this and rejects the two-state solution, then, what shall we negotiate?" Abbas asked during a visit to a school in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Continued...
Source: Reuters

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