Ma'an News Agency
August 12, 2010 - 12:00am

US State Department officials said Wednesday, peace efforts would "press forward in the coming days" despite the latest visit by Middle East envoy George Mitchell characterized as a failure by many media outlets.

Mitchell, who left the region on Wednesday evening, met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his latest tour, and presented a formula for talks laid out by President Mahmoud Abbas to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which the latter rejected.

Abbas, who requested that talks proceed from a statement issued in March by the Middle East Quartet - made up of representatives from the US, EU, UN and Russia - also asked that the United States be present as the schedule for talks was laid out.

State Department Spokesman James Patrick Crowley said no decision had been made in Washington regarding the proposal, but said officials would "continue our consultations with the Quartet members and other parties in the region."

Crowley stressed the fact that neither party had rejected the idea of direct talks, and were rather working through the details of what direct talks would look like. "I would not characterize ... our situation as deadlocked," the spokesman said, noting both sides "indicate that they are ready to proceed into direct negotiations."

The official said Washington believes "we are closer to direct negotiations than we were last week," but did not indicate if or how American eagerness for talks to move forward would translate into practice.

"We will continue to consult with the Quartet and others on how we can be as supportive as possible and to encourage the leaders to say yes and move forward," Crowley said.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Abbas said he laid out three conditions to Mitchell to convey to Israeli negotiators. First that US officials sit in on a joint meeting with negotiators to develop a map for the direct talks, based on a principal of a two-state solution and the boundaries as they were on 4 June 1967.

Second, Abbas said, he requested that the United States lay the groundwork for talks, and for the objectives that those talks hoped to achieve.

The final condition Abbas said he put before Mitchell, was based on a March decision by the international Middle East Quartet, and later backed by the EU, calling for negotiations on the basis of an end to occupation and respect for international laws and UN decisions.

Quartet statement expected

Crowley said that following Abbas' request that the March Quartet statement, later backed by the EU, be used as a baseline for talks, that a new statement on the issue would be released by the Quartet in the coming days.

"We will work through the elements of that statement with our partners and use whatever means that we can to demonstrate that we are supportive of the leaders as they contemplate taking this important step into direct negotiations," Crowley said.

The official noted that details on location and even who would participate in talks if they were held was still up for negotiation. "If we can resolve those" issues, Crowley said, "we think will overcome remaining hesitation."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017