'Political challenge.' Netanyahu (L) with Clinton in Sharm
Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO
Abbas (L) and Mitchell
Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO

US calls on Israel, Palestinians to 'reach compromises'

Following second round of direct negotiations in Egypt, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley says, 'Both sides will have to move off of public stated positions; recognize they won't get everything they want'

The United States gave no sign on Tuesday that Israel and the Palestinians had narrowed the gap on Jewish settlements, but said they tackled issues at the heart of their decades-old conflict.


On her first visit to the Middle East since launching new peace talks in Washington on September 2, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.


Abbas and Netanyahu shook hands and smiled for the cameras at the start of what US envoy George Mitchell said was a 100-minute meeting where the parties "began a serious discussion on core issues."


These are Israel's security, the borders of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the future of Jerusalem.


In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the talks posed "a political challenge for both leaders," who should "seek creative ways" of resolving their differences.


"Both sides will have to move off of public stated positions and ... reach compromises on firmly held and emotional issues.


"This cannot be a situation where one side wins and the other side loses. You have to find solutions where both sides get what they need to reach an agreement, recognizing that neither side will get everything that ... it wants."


He added that Washington was working with both sides to help "create momentum and trust and confidence ... that helps us resolve all of the core issues within the next year."


Netanyahu and Abbas held another round of talks attended by Clinton later in the afternoon.


In remarks on the flight to Egypt, Clinton did not rule out a deal between the two sides that would result in something short of an extension of the partial freeze, which is due to expire at the end of this month.


Netanyahu (L), Clinton and Abbas in Egypt (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)


The Palestinians have warned that if the moratorium is not extended, the talks could come to a complete halt.


Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki backed the Palestinian position.


"No one should expect Egypt to convince the Palestinians of what they are not convinced of; they have a clear position on this issue and we support them," he said.


But Zaki played down talk of deadlock.


"It's too early, let's see what transpires. It is naive to think that something concrete would come out of only the second round of talks."


A senior member of Abbas' Fatah party, Hatem Abdel Qadir, told Egyptian television on Monday that Washington was pressuring the Palestinians to drop their condition of a complete settlement freeze for the talks to continue.


But a member of the negotiating team, Nabil Shaath, said after Clinton met Abbas that he was not asked to reverse his condition on settlements.


Tuesday's talks were also expected to tackle the agenda for the negotiations, with Netanyahu reportedly wanting first to address future security arrangements and secure Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.


But the Palestinians want first to define the borders of a future Palestinian state, address the status of Jerusalem and discuss the right of return of refugees who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel in 1948.


Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was seeking to negotiate an agreement quickly but one that would be implemented over a long period.


Clinton travelled to Jerusalem on Tuesday night. She was scheduled to hold three-way talks with Netanyahu and Abbas there on Wednesday before traveling to the West Bank and Jordan the following day.


Mitchell, meanwhile, was due to hold talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Thursday, the US embassy there said. US officials attending the peace talks said Mitchell would then travel to Lebanon for talks with top officials.


And Israeli public television said Netanyahu is considering travelling to Washington on Sunday for talks with senior US officials.



פרסום ראשון: 09.14.10, 22:12
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