Thursday, December 9, 2010

US State Dep spokesman: Decision to drop freeze demand is a recognition of reality

US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell will head back to the region next week after Obama administration officials vowed on Wednesday to continue the push for peace despite a breakdown in direct negotiations.

"Senator Mitchell will go back to the region next week to consult," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said.

Crowley said the US believed that direct negotiations will still be necessary to resolve the Mideast conflict, and would discuss with both sides what the best way might be to bring them to the table.

"I would describe this as a change in tactics, not a change in strategy," Crowley said.

Crowley said the US decision on settlements marked a recognition of reality.

"We thought that this had in a sense become an end in itself rather than become a means to an end."

"We're going to focus on the substance and try to begin to make progress on the core issues themselves, and we think that will create the kind of momentum that we need to see to get to sustained negotiations."

Crowley said the US continued to view further Israeli settlement activity as illegitimate. He said the impasse over settlements had also halted separate US discussions of a possible security package for Israel which Washington had hoped might help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sell a settlement deal politically.

"At this time we are not pursuing a settlement moratorium and we're not pursuing that kind of discussion with the Israelis," Crowley said.