Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shalom to peace? US: PA to announce renewal of direct talks within days; Quartet to call for deadline of Palestinian state within '67 borders

(Haaretz).Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will announce the start of direct peace negotiations with Israel in only "a matter of days," a senior official in the Obama administration told Haaretz over the weekend.

A number of minor details need to be clarified with Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that will open the way for direct talks, the official added.
Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas at the opening of a medical center in August 2010 in Ramallah.
Photo by: Reuters

Sources in Washington say the Palestinians are likely to announce the start of direct negotiations as early as Monday, and a similar announcement will be made by the Quartet of Mideast mediators, which will call for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders within a year or two.

Contrary to the optimism in Washington, Israeli officials are trying to show toughness regarding preconditions. "Israel is not willing to agree to any preconditions from the back door via a Quartet announcement that will serve as a basis for the negotiations," a senior official in Jerusalem said.

"As far as we know, the negotiations may begin in two days, but also in two weeks."

If an announcement is made this week on resuming direct talks, a ceremony is expected to be held inaugurating the process.

The senior U.S. official said it is still unclear whether President Barack Obama would take part in the inauguration or whether the parties would be invited to Washington for a ceremony.

According to the senior Israeli official, the ceremony would be held in Egypt under the auspices of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; the United States would be represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Over the weekend international leaders pressured Abbas to announce this week the resumption of direct negotiations.

Meanwhile, a senior Fatah official, Azam al-Ahmed, who is accompanying Abbas on a visit to Qatar, said on Saturday that the Palestinian Authority would announce on Sunday or Monday its position on resuming direct talks with Israel.