EU foreign policy chief Solana to Haaretz: Israeli-Palestinian talks have gone too slowly
The peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been carried out far too slowly since last November's Annapolis summit, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Haaretz.
Solana said in an interview on Friday that "it is true that in this process of negotiations, the more determined one is, the better chances of getting an agreement in the [stipulated] time frame .... I think that it has been done too slowly at the beginning and that probably this is the mistake that has been made."
Solana arrived in Israel Friday morning and had meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials in Tel Aviv and Ramallah. Solana said he has doubts over whether a deal can be completed by the end of the year, saying that the longer the sides wait to go forward with talks, the less they are likely to succeed.
"Because time is shorter, it will more difficult to do," Solana said. "I think we have to maintain the momentum and we will have to see some results before the end of the year". He added that in 2009 "it will be much more complicated to do."
In a meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the Israeli told Solana that "the right thing to do will be to continue the process in the same manner that it was planned. The international community should avoid trying to accelerate the process by proposing initiatives that will not meet Israel's interests.
In the interview, Solana called the negotiations between Israel and Syria a positive step, but said he thinks the Palestinian track needs to be addressed first. Solana added that if Syria changes its positions the way EU deems appropriate, there may be a chance to continue the talks on an association agreement with Syria. "At this moment this decision has not been taken," Solana said.
In Ramallah, Solana met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Fayyad told Solana that "the international community's support for the peace process is meaningless so long as there is no real pressure on Israel to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank." Fayyad added that Israel's continued building in the settlements is a blatant violation of international law.