Leak of Palestine papers alleging to document behind-the-scenes workings of Mideast peace talks is making an already difficult situation more difficult, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, emphasizing that Washington was in no position to verify the papers' veracity.
The documents on the peace process were leaked to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel and also published by the British newspaper the Guardian; Al-Jazeera said Sunday that it has received as many as 1,600 Palestinian documents. The papers reveal many intimate details about what has been offered in past negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Referring to the possible damage the leaked documents could have on an already struggling Mideast peace process, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Monday that Washington would not "deny that this release will, at least for a time, make the situation more difficult than it already was."
"And regardless of whether one document is accurate, one document is not, or one document represents a past position and one document represents a – doesn't represent a current position, obviously, we’re evaluating the political reaction to what has come forward in the last 24 hours and what is likely to come forward in the coming days." Crowley said.
However, Crowley added that the United States was "clear-eyed" about the difficulties ahead, saying Washington "recognized that this would be a great challenge. But it doesn't change our overall objective."
"We continue to believe that a framework agreement is both possible and necessary. So we continue to work and engage the parties as we’ve done throughout this process," Crowley.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians stalled last year after an Israeli freeze on West Bank settlement building expired. Since then, both sides have placed blame on the other over the stalled talks, with the Palestinians saying they will not renew negotiations without a settlement freeze.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has placed the blame for the failure to renew talks on the Palestinians, saying they are evading negotiations.
"The government, in my leadership, is striving to achieve peace. This is our target and objective – to reach an agreement in negotiations with the Palestinians," Netanyahu said last month. "Unfortunately, the Palestinians have thus far been evading negotiations."
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