Israelis, Palestinians to meet Monday in Jericho
Palestinian official Nabil Shaath says representatives of delegations to Washington to prepare next meeting between Abbas, Netanyahu in Sharm el-Sheikh. According to Shaath, Obama informed Abbas of his plan to visit region, Israel clarified settlement freeze would end September 30
In an interview with the Ramallah-based al-Ayyam newspaper, Shaath also revealed details from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' meeting Thursday.
The Palestinian delegation would be led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, while the Israeli delegation would be headed by Netanyahu's advisor, Attorney Yitzhak Molcho. According to Erekat, the meeting would be held in the presence of an American representative.
Shaath said the meeting would be held in preparation of the second round of talks between the parties, which would be held on September 14 and 15 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and which would be attended by Netanyahu, Abbas and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
He added that US President Barack Obama informed Abbas of his plan to visit the region in a bid to advance the peace process. He made it clear, however, that a date for such a visit had yet to be set.
Shaath noted that Obama had stressed the American commitment to an independent Palestinian state and his perception that this was a US interest.
According to Shaath, the Israeli team clarified that the freeze would end on September 30 rather than on September 26, giving both sides additional time for preparation meetings.
FM Lieberman wants security focus
The Palestinian official added that the security issue would be the first thing the sides planned to focus on as part of the negotiations. According to Shaath, the framework agreement would include all the issues of the permanent agreement, without any exceptions.
Netanyahu and Abbas have agreed to hold bi-weekly meetings, either in the Middle East or abroad.
Leaders at festive dinner, Thursday (Photo: AP)
Shaath noted that during Abbas and Netanyahu's face-to-face meeting at the State Department on Thursday, the Palestinian president presented the understandings and progress he had reached with the Ehud Olmert government.
According to Shaath, Abbas briefed Netanyahu on the stage the parties had reached on each of the issues. He added that Netanyahu had expressed an interest in everything Abbas had to say and had written it all down.
The Palestinian official admitted that there remained a deep dispute on the settlement issue, adding that the Israelis had made it clear that it would be difficult to extend the construction freeze, "while we view it as a material fact."
He stressed that it would be impossible to continue the negotiations should the settlement construction be resumed. "We have made out stand clear on this matter," he said.
Meanwhile, Israel's foreign minister said Friday that talks with the Palestinians should focus on security and economic issues, and aim at a long-term deal.
Speaking after talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou, Avigdor Lieberman said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was very complicated, and "the best or realistic approach is a long-term intermediate agreement or solution."
He said he was uncertain whether "emotional conflicts" like Jerusalem, refugees and Jewish settlements could be resolved. He added, "I prefer to focus all our efforts on security and economic issues."
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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