Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem negated a statement made by the capital's US Consul General Jake Walles asserting that Israel had agreed to cede control over east Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority as part of the current peace talks.
The sources expressed their astonishment at Walles' public discussion of the negotiations, as the three sides involved have agreed to refrain from making the matter public.
Diplomatic turmoil ensued after Walles told Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam that during US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's most recent visit to Israel she said the basis for the current negotiations with the Palestinians would have to be a withdrawal to the 1967 ceasefire lines, including east Jerusalem.
Both sides concurred with this statement, and agreed to perform certain boundary adjustments that would be acceptable to each of the parties involved, Walles said.
Walles also criticized Israel during the interview, claiming that since the Annapolis Summit in 2007 it has increased construction in settlements and expanded illegal outposts. This clearly violates Israel's commitments and the Road Map, he said.
The consul general added that the US expects Israel to ease restrictions on the Palestinian territories, in order to assist the Palestinian economy's growth which, he said, was in Israel's best interest.
The Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem and the White House issued a statement that negated Walles' claims. "We are not negotiating on Jerusalem with the Palestinians," the statement said.
"The prime minister has offered to set up a separate forum for the discussion of the issue, to be included in a future agreement, but this forum is separate from the current talks. There is currently no point in holding talks on the subject of Jerusalem."
The statement added that "the issue of Jerusalem should be solved by future negotiations, not during
current talks. We would like to express our astonishment at the consul's statement, which goes against the agreement between the US, Israel, and the Palestinians. The sides have agreed not to publicize the matter, as it could harm negotiations."
The US State Department also issued a statement denying Walles' claims. "A senior US official who participated in the discussions denies that the Israeli side, led by chief negotiator, Foreign Minister Livni, has been willing to negotiate concerning Jerusalem," the statement read.