Lieberman: New approach needed for talks
George Mitchell meets President Peres, Foreign Minister Lieberman, says Obama administration committed to two-state solution, expects Israeli government to make progress on negotiations with PA. President assures him reports of possible Israeli strike on Iran false
Mitchell reportedly relayed a message to that effect to President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who he met Thursday morning.
Lieberman, who upon taking office said that Israel is no longer bound by the decisions of the Annapolis Summit, described the two's meeting as "important and in-depth," adding that they spoke of various matters concerning security and the economy and that he was looking forward to their future meeting.
Mitchell, however, told the Israeli foreign minister that the US expects the Israeli government to strive to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to implement a "financial peace" does not suffice, he stressed, telling Lieberman that the Obama administration expects financial steps to be part of the ongoing process.
According to sources in the Foreign Ministry, Lieberman explained that the traditional approach to the peace process, taken by previous governments, has proven futile; leaving the process deadlocked despite the fact that they introduced dramatic concessions.
Examples on hand. Lieberman and Mitchell (Photo: Reuters)
Israel wants to explore new avenues in the negotiations, the sources said. The minister, they added, gave Mitchell the examples of the Second Lebanon War, the Israeli offensive in Gaza, the severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and Mauritania and the fact that IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is still held in Hamas captivity, as examples for theses failures.
In an earlier meeting, President Peres attempted to put the US envoy's mind at ease, telling him that the reports suggesting Israel is gearing up for a possible strike on Iran were false, assuring him that the solution to the Iranian nuclear dilemma was "not a military one."
Israel, the president told Mitchell, is seeking wide international cooperation on the subject. Peres suggested the US administration proceed with caution until it can ascertain whether or not Tehran's willingness to negotiate its nuclear program was sincere.
The international community wants nothing more than to see a world free of the threat of bombs, Peres told Mitchell; adding that the problem lies with those in possession of the weapons, who are more often than not radical fanatics who will stop at nothing to kill.
At ease. Peres and Mitchell (Photo: Flash 90)
Mitchell and Peres also spoke of the planned UN anti-racism conference – dubbed "Durban II" – said to convene on April 20th in Geneva. Peres censured the meet, calling it "a sanctimonious gathering" which can do nothing to stop the arm smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
Israel, he added, will not tolerate gunrunning into the Strip and will not sit idly by "waiting for rockets to hit Tel Aviv."
Nevertheless, the Israeli president said that Gaza must be rebuilt from the ruins of Operation Cast Lead in a way which would ensure none of the funds dedicated to that cause reach Hamas.
As for the Saudi peace initiative, Peres told Mitchell that his positive outlook as for the initiative prospects stemmed from the fact that he is convinced that the region's nations do not want to see Iran take over the Middle East, or Hamas the Palestinian Authority.