Livni to Mitchell: We don't gain from stagnant peace process
Opposition leader's comments come after Lieberman tells U.S. envoy that past Mideast peace efforts failed.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni told visiting United States envoy George Mitchell on Thursday that lack of progress in the peace process was not to Israel's benefit.
The opposition leader, who negotiated with the Palestinian Authority toward a peace accord as foreign minister in Israel's last government, also told Mitchell that Israel must determine its borders at the same time as fighting terror.
Livni's comments came shortly after her replacement, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, told George Mitchell that a different approach was needed to solve the Middle East conflict, because that of past Israeli governments had failed.
"New ideas" must be found, because the path taken by previous governments did not lead to "good places, to say the least," Lieberman told Mitchell, who arrived in Israel Wednesday night.
This was Mitchell's third round of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah since his appointment, and the first during the tenure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A statement released by Lieberman's office quoted the minister as saying, "Past prime ministers were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions and the result of the Olmert-Livni government was the second Lebanon war, the operation in Gaza, severance of relations with Qatar and Mauritania, [abducted Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit still in captivity and the peace process at a dead end."
In response, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said it means Israel will not conduct peace talks. "It's very obvious that this government rejects a two-state solution and the agreements [already] signed," he told The Associated Press by telephone.
Mitchell told Lieberman during the meeting that the U.S remains committed to a two-state solution for rectifying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Netanyahu government has thus far declined to openly commit to such a two-state solution.
"I reiterated to the foreign minister that U.S. policy favors, with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a two-state solution which will have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel," Mitchell told reporters.
"We look forward also to efforts to achieving comprehensive peace throughout the region," he added.
Despite the potential for tension after Lieberman used his inauguration speech to flatly declare that Israel was not bound by commitments it made at a U.S.-sponsored summit in Annapolis, Thursday's talks were held in a "very good" atmosphere, his office insisted.
"We spoke about really close cooperation and we are looking forward to the next meeting and to some really deep dialogue," Lieberman told reporters after the meeting. "It was a great opportunity to exchange some ideas, and we spoke about really close cooperation."
In his comments to the press, Lieberman made no mention of a Palestinian state, an issue that could put Netanyahu's right-leaning government on a collision course with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Mitchell also said that Lieberman told him about Israel's desire to "make economic improvements" in the West Bank. Palestinian leaders have rejected any notion of an "economic peace" and have said U.S.-backed talks with Israel could not resume until Netanyahu committed to statehood.
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