Israeli, Palestinian Negotiation Teams to Meet on Tuesday

The meeting in Jerusalem will be the sixth in this round of negotiations, which are held under a heavy veil of secrecy.

The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams will meet on Tuesday in Jerusalem for a sixth round of talks since the resumption of the peace process in July, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz.

On Sunday, Israel Radio quoted senior Palestinian officials as saying that the night before Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is leading the talks on behalf of the government, had met secretly with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

The talks are taking place under a heavy veil of secrecy, with mainly the Israeli side refusing to provide even the smallest detail about the content of the meetings, either before or after they take place. On Monday, too, Livni’s bureau declined to comment on Tuesday’s meeting.

Senior Israeli officials said that the talks currently focus on whether the 1967 border, with territorial exchanges, will be officially recognized as the basis for future agreement. The parties are also trying to reach an agreement on order of the outstanding issues to be addressed. Israel is demanding that talks first be held about security arrangements, and only afterward about borders. The Palestinians are demanding that talks be held about both simultaneously.

It is not yet clear whether U.S. Special Envoy Martin Indyk, who got married over the weekend, will be attending Tuesday’s meeting. On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Department of State issued a special announcement about Indyk’s role in the peace talks, which stated that so far, Indyk had attended only one of the meetings that had taken place between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams.

“Israeli and Palestinian delegations have been meeting continuously since final status negotiations resumed on July 29,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “The negotiations have been serious, and U.S. Special Envoy Martin Indyk and his team have been fully briefed on the bilateral talks and also participated in a bilateral negotiating session. As we have said in the past, we are not planning to read out the details of these meetings.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday at a Fatah gathering in Ramallah that only preliminary positions were laid out during the talks with Israel that took place in recent weeks. “Israel presented its positions and we responded to them,” he said, adding that the talks were expected to last between six and nine months.

Abbas added that in addition to the 104 Palestinian prisoners jailed before the Oslo Accords who are to be released by Israel, the Palestinian Authority would ask for the release of 250 more prisoners, among them high-ranking Fatah leaders.

GPO