Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to convene his inner forum of seven senior cabinet ministers on Thursday morning, to discuss a new proposal by the United States’ Middle East envoy George Mitchell aimed at restarting indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
According to the French news agency AFP, Mitchell suggested that the U.S. hold separate but "parallel" talks with both sides, for a period of six weeks. A Palestinian source told AFP Mitchell had proposed that the U.S. conduct bilateral talks with each side, rather than any direct peace negotiations.
Representatives from both sides will, under the terms of the proposal, meet separately with officials from the Obama administration, to discuss security and borders, as well as other issues.
"What is discussed with each side will not be divulged to the other, but the aim is for the U.S. administration to form an idea of what the two parties want with a view to drawing up a strategy to relaunch direct negotiations at the time it deems appropriate,” AFP quoted the Palestinian official as saying.
Mitchell was in Cairo on Wednesday, where he met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as he continues his drive to breathe new life into the moribund talks. The official Egyptian news agency MENA said Wednesday that Mubarak and Netanyahu had spoken by phone, and had discussed the stagnant peace process. Mubarak also met Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Egyptian capital.
Netanyahu was expected to hash out with his ministers Israel’s positions on a variety of issues considered to be at the core of the negotiations for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers from Arab nations came out out Wednesday against any talks between Israel and the Palestinians, direct or indirect, unless the United States takes a firm stance on the future borders of a Palestinian state.
The Palestinian Authority is also demanding that Israel reinstate its freeze on settlement construction in order for talks to go ahead, while Netanyahu has said that such a move would bring down his coalition government. His coalition comprises of right-wing parties who are staunchly opposed to any new moratorium on settlement construction, as are key members within the prime minister’s own center-right Likud party.
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