An international summit is to be held in Egypt in November, with representatives from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the members of the Quartet - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. According to a senior official in Jerusalem, the Israeli and PA participants will brief the Quartet over progress made in the ongoing peace talks.
The gathering is said to be the result of a compromise between the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians. In recent months U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been urging both sides to draft a document detailing the points of agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. She suggested they compile an "inventory" detailing progress on each of the core issues, such as Jerusalem, borders, refugees' right of return, security, settlements and water rights.
Israel opposed Rice's suggestion and argued that it would set the talks back. "It would make each side harden its stance to appear as though it has made no concessions," the Israeli source said. "Finally, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni managed to persuade her Palestinian counterpart, the head of the PA negotiating team, Ahmed Qureia, to reject the inventory idea."
Instead, the parties agreed on to give a detailed briefing to the Quartet. The Israeli and PA negotiators believe that would be less binding and would allow issues to be presented more freely.
Quartet representatives met with their Arab League counterparts in New York last week and approved the proposed Israeli and Palestinian briefing. Also, Quartet members decided to hold a peace summit in Moscow next spring.
Meanwhile, the Israeli source said the November summit will probably take place in Sharm el-Sheikh on the anniversary of last year's Annapolis summit. Quartet representatives, including its Middle East envoy, former British prime minister Tony Blair, will participate as well as officials from Jordan and Egypt.
The political turmoil in Israel following the resignation of Ehud Olmert as prime minister is hampering attempts to determine the level of representation at the summit. If Livni becomes prime minister then the heads of states of other participating countries will also be required to attend. Another issue that must be reconciled before the summit is held is the difference in opinion between Livni and Olmert, who have each been holding independent talks with Palestinians.
Olmert, who has met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas every two to three weeks, has proposed that Palestinians receive 93 percent of the West Bank, and Israeli territory amounting to 5.5 percent of the West Bank as part of a land swap. According to the proposal, Israel will accept a few thousand Palestinian refugees within its borders on humanitarian grounds over a 10-year period. Olmert proposed that the issue of Jerusalem be put on hold and discussed in cooperation with the international community. Abbas apparently opposes the proposal at this point.
At the same time, Livni has been holding talks with Qureia aimed at trying to reach a detailed final status agreement. While the two sides made little progress over the core issues they have agreed on a broad range of issues such as water and the economy. Both Livni and Qureia categorically rejected Olmert's proposal.
The Annapolis summit was held on November 27, 2007, in the U.S., with participants from about 40 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Syria and Indonesia.
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