Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Diplomatic achievement for Israel - US on EU: J'lem to be negotiated in final-status agreement

(Ynet).Jerusalem sounded pleased after the European Union decided to tone down its statement on Jerusalem as the capital of two states, but there were a number of wrinkled noses in Washington.

Assistant Secretary of State PJ Crowley said Tuesday in response: "We are aware of the EU statement, but our position on Jerusalem is clear. We believe that is a final-status issue. This is best addressed inside a formal negotiation among the parties directly."

The United States, the EU, and others certainly recognize the importance of getting back to negotiation. And we all have our differing views on the emotional and complex issues that are at the heart of this challenge," said Crowley, reiterating the Obama administration's stance.

Crowley noted that the US' current focus is "to see what we can do to try to encourage the parties, all of them, to move beyond kind of the cul-de-sac that we find ourselves in and to continue to refocus on the future and see what we can do to get the process moving forward again."

The State Department emphasized that it was taking steps to renew direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, especially on the backdrop of Israel's decision to impose a 10-month moratorium on West Bank settlement building. Such moves include encouraging Israel's Arab neighbors to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"For other countries in the region, we continue to encourage them to provide support to President Abbas and to be prepared to take meaningful steps if and when we get to a point where we think that the parties are prepared to consider negotiations," said Crowley.

There mood in Israel following the publication of the EU statement was actually more moderated than the one in the US. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was also pleased by the decision: "I'm pleased that the foreign ministers didn’t make any rash, one-sided decisions.

"The decision stating the some of the core issues between Israel and the Palestinians must be settled by negotiations is even an improvement to Europe's previous stand."

A senior Foreign Ministry source told Ynet that "ensuring such a decision was made was not an easy task."