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Direct Israeli-Palestinian Talks Resume in Egypt
By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer
Washington — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held serious discussions September 14 on the core issues that need to be resolved for a Middle East peace settlement, and were joined at the talks in Egypt by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell told reporters September 14 that both Netanyahu and Abbas “reiterated their intent to approach these negotiations in good faith and with a seriousness of purpose,” with the goal of achieving “a just, lasting and secure peace.”
The discussions follow the resumption of direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington September 1–2, after face-to-face discussions had been on hold since December 2008. Both leaders agreed in Washington that they would hold further talks September 14–15 in the Middle East and to continue to meet every two weeks thereafter.
“President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu continued to agree that these negotiations, whose goal is to resolve all core issues, can be completed within one year,” Mitchell said. “The parties have agreed to begin first on working to achieve a framework agreement for permanent status. That work is now well under way,” he said.
Core issues to be resolved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process include determining the final borders of a Palestinian state, the future of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements in occupied areas, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, water rights and future relations between the two states that include assurances of Israeli security.
Secretary Clinton spoke with reporters en route to Egypt September 13, and said Israelis and Palestinians face a simple choice between either having negotiations or not being able to achieve security needs or an independent Palestinian state.
“There is no prospect for success in the absence of direct negotiations; there is absolutely no way that the legitimate needs of Israel can be satisfied for the long term, nor that the aspirations of the Palestinians can be achieved,” the secretary said.
Clinton echoed President Obama’s view that Israel’s moratorium on building settlements in the occupied West Bank “should be extended” and that the talks are meant to reach an agreement on the borders between Israel and a Palestinian state. An agreement on those borders “would … eliminate the debate about settlements because some areas would be inside Israel and some areas would not be inside Israel,” she said. Both sides have an obligation to “ensure that these negotiations continue,” she added.
Both Netanyahu and Abbas “recognize that time is not on either of their sides,” Clinton said.
“For both of these men, this is a moment of great opportunity as well as challenge, and what we are attempting to do is to encourage them to pursue this chance for peace this year, because neither of them can predict the consequences if this effort does not continue forward,” she said.
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley said September 14 that the Obama administration will continue to play a “key facilitator” role in the talks, and “we are prepared to offer our ideas as needed as the process goes forward.”
He urged both sides to “move off of public-stated positions and reach compromises on firmly held and emotional … issues” and said the two leaders will need to build mutual trust and understanding through their discussions in order to find ways to resolve and satisfy each other’s political challenges as difficult decisions need to be made.
“This cannot be a situation where, you know, one side wins and the other side loses,” Crowley said. “You have to find solutions where both sides get what they need to reach an agreement, recognizing that neither side will get everything that it wants.”
Clinton will join both leaders for further discussions in Jerusalem September 15 and will meet with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials before returning to Washington September 16.
Crowley said Special Envoy Mitchell will remain in the region after the secretary has left, with plans to visit both Syria and Lebanon.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.  Web site:
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