Peres to Mitchell: Israeli intentions serious
President tells US special envoy, 'If there are elements on the other side doubting our support for the two-state solution, they should look at the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.' Mitchell-Netanyahu meeting ends without agreements, parties to resume discussions Sunday
After failing to reach an agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US special envoy George Mitchell met Friday afternoon with President Shimon Peres, who told him that Israel "is committed to peace, and those who don't understand the seriousness of our intentions are ignoring reality."
During the meeting, the two officials discussed ways to resume the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
"There is no point in staying on a 'waiting list' on peace, both as far as we are concerned and as far as the Palestinians are concerned," the president told the American envoy at the start of the meeting. "Your arrival in the region is a green light to move forward."
Peres and Mitchell, Friday. 'Israel doesn't wish to control another nation' (Photo: Yossi Zamir, Flash 90)
Peres stressed that Israel was interested in peace. "If there are elements on the other side doubting our support for the two-state solution, I suggest that they take our statements seriously and take a look at the peace treaties we have already signed with Egypt and Jordan.
"This is a vital interest for both sides, and not just because we don't wish to control another nation, but also because we would not like to see the conflict destroy our future. There is no alternative to peace."
The president told the American envoy that "your mission here is crucial and we are interested in seeing it succeed and be significant. No one gains from a stalemate in the negotiations. We must move forward, and now is the time."
Mitchell, on his part, read out the special statement issued by US President Barack Obama in honor of Israel's 62nd Independence Day. He stressed the friendly relations between the two countries and said that Israel remained the Americans' key ally in the Middle East.
Optimism, but not agreements
Earlier Friday, Mitchell met for more than an hour with Benjamin Netanyahu at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. The two failed to reach any agreement and set another meeting for Sunday.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office defined the meeting as "good and constructive" and said that Netanyahu was interested in receiving additional answers from the Palestinians.
Netanyahu and Mitchell, earlier Friday. 'Must move forward' (Photo: GPO)
Netanyahu told Mitchell before the meeting, "I'm looking forward to working with you, and with President Obama, to advance peace. We are serious about it, we know you are serious about it, and we hope the Palestinians respond," he stressed. "We have to move this process forward. I look forward to working with you, with the Obama administration, to move peace forward."
Mitchell said he was looking forward to working with Netanyahu in order to achieve the joint goal of comprehensive peace in the region.
The prime minister's envoy on the Palestinian matter - Attorney Yitzhak Molcho and National Security Advisor Uzi Arad - and Mitchell's deputy David Hale also participated in the meeting. Earlier, the American envoy met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv.
Before Mitchell's meetings in Israel, state officials in Jerusalem said they were optimistic in regards to the chance of launching the "proximity talks" between Israel and the Palestinians. According to estimates, a decision to relaunch the talks' will be declared before Mitchell leaves the region on Sunday.
The sources estimated that Israel would put on the table a number of gestures, including releasing prisoners, removing roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank and handing over security-related matters in certain areas to the Palestinian Authority.
Despite taking a cautious approach, the Palestinian Authority also estimated negotiations would be announced in the days to come and said the US demands put forth to the Israeli side were encouraging.