WASHINGTON - "He said, she said": U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called a Washington Post reporter twice Friday to clarify the American position on Jewish settlement expansion, saying Israel and the U.S. have no agreement on the matter.
The two sides are engaged in talks ahead of a possible freezing of settlement activity, Rice noted, and added the question is a complex one and has not yet been resolved.
Rice’s latest comments seem to contradict clarifications by U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer Friday.
The American envoy told Israeli media the U.S. and Israel have reached certain understandings regarding Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank.
The remarks came after Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Kurtzer, speaking at a closed session with Foreign Ministry cadets, denied Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush reached any understandings on the matter.
In the latest development, Rice dismissed reports in Israel and the U.S. that indicate American acceptance of a certain rate of natural population growth in the West Bank.
The letter delivered by President Bush to Sharon on April 14 meant to indicate the American leader recognized certain realities, but he did not attempt to conduct negotiations on a final-status agreement, Rice said.
The secretary of state also spoke of the American confusion in the face of reports regarding Israeli plans to expand West Bank settlements.
The U.S. asked Israel for clarification, but did not receive adequate answers, Rice said.
The Americans are currently attempting to get a better grasp of what the freezing of settlement activity means, she said, but added there is no agreement that details what Israel is allowed, or not allowed, to do.