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International Negotiators Meet, Little Progress on Mideast Peace

  • Scott Bobb

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) confers with his Foreign Minister Riad Malki (L) and Riyad Mansour (R), Palestinian envoy to the United Nations (file photo).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) confers with his Foreign Minister Riad Malki (L) and Riyad Mansour (R), Palestinian envoy to the United Nations (file photo).

International diplomats seeking to re-start the stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have held separate meetings with the two parties.

Delegates from the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States met separately Monday with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators but expectations of a breakthrough in the stalled peace talks remained low.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas's political adviser, Nemr Hamad, indicated there was a willingness to discuss a framework for resuming the talks.

He said, "We are focusing on two issues. The first issue is the borders of a Palestinian state along the July 4, 1967, lines. The second issue is security. If there is progress on these issues, the Palestinian team is ready to go to the negotiating table."

The Israeli negotiator, Yitzhak Molcho, told Israeli radio his team was willing to talk to the Palestinians anytime and anyplace without conditions. Israel has accused the Palestinians of raising more demands as a condition of returning to the table.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said in a statement following his meeting that the Palestinians are ready to discuss all issues once Israel proves its commitment by freezing all construction of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The talks broke down 14 months ago after Israel resumed settlement construction following a 10-month freeze.

Settlement construction has since expanded.

The international mediators known as the Mideast Quartet two months ago called on the two sides to submit proposals within three months on territory and security and to commit to reaching a time frame for direct talks by the end of next year.

The negotiators reportedly proposed, as a way to ease the deadlock, that the Palestinians drop their demand for a settlement freeze in exchange for Israeli concessions on the borders of a two-state solution.

Erekat's statement Monday said Israeli settlements and the two-state solution could not be linked "were mutually exclusive".

Partially as a result of the deadlock, the Palestinians in September requested state membership in the United Nations. Palestinian officials recently acknowledged that they did not have the nine votes necessary in the U.N. Security Council for their application to succeed.

The U.S. government, as a permanent council member, has said it would veto any such proposal if it were to pass.

The Palestinians two weeks ago were admitted by a large margin as a full member of the U.N. cultural organization, UNESCO. This brought a cutoff of U.S. funding for the organization in accordance with a long-standing U.S. law.

Israel also cut its funding for UNESCO. In addition it announced an expansion of two settlements around Jerusalem and the suspension of $100 million per month in tax payments to the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli Cabinet on Monday voted to maintain the cutoff.

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