Israel has presented the Palestinian Authority with detailed maps proposing a land-swap as the current round of talks moves ahead, the top Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qureia, said on Saturday.
For some seven months now Qureia and his team have been meeting with their Israeli counterparts, led by Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni.
"The negotiations are difficult, and they touch on all the issues we disagree on," Qureia told Palestinian reporters. "On the borders, we agreed that it will include the West Bank and Gaza Strip as one continuous geographic unit linked by a secure corridor. The borders will include East Jerusalem, the Jordan River Valley and the Dead Sea, as well as the pre-1967 demilitarized zone – like the Latrun area for example."
Qureia said he was doubtful that an agreement could be reached prior to the end of US President George W. Bush's term in office at the end of this year. "We would need an extraordinary effort or a miracle to reach that goal," he said, "something that is not being aided by internal problems both in Israel and on our side."
State officials in Jerusalem were quick to lower expectations and said Qureia's statements should not be seen as indicative of any significant breakthrough in the negotiations. At this point, say the officials, there is very little progress being made on the core issues.
Livni's office declined to comment on closed-door negotiations.
"Until everything is agreed on, nothing has been agreed on. And beyond that, the Palestinian's won't get everything they want," the minister's office said. A long-time member of the negotiations team recalled this is not the first time the 'demilitarized zone' has been brought up by the Palestinians, which does indeed include Latrun. But, he said, Israel has refused to discuss the matter.