U.S. Denies Plan to Convene 4-way Mideast Summit in June

Despite denials, well-placed U.S. sources insist that a four-way summit heralding the launch of renewed talks between Israel and the Palestinians had been discussed with Mideast leaders, foreign ministers.

The Obama administration Thursday denied a Haaretz report about plans to convene a four way Middle East peace summit in which President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah will participate.

Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council Spokesperson: said "We have seen the media reports of a planned Middle East Peace summit in Washington. These reports are not true. We remain committed to working with the Israelis and the Palestinians to achieve a lasting peace through direct negotiations."

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell also denied the report, saying that the U.S. Administration is expecting to hold talks with an Arab League delegation that will visit Washington on April 29.

Despite the denials, however, well-placed American sources insisted Thursday that a four-way summit that would herald the launch of renewed talks between Israel and the Palestinians had been discussed with Mideast leaders and foreign ministers. One diplomatic source told Haaretz that the sides had been encouraged to “come up with ideas” that would enable the summit to convene.

The sources said that Turkey, Egypt and other Arab countries may also be invited to participate in the summit, though it’s not clear yet at what level. Secretary of State John Kerry, according to these sources, discussed the planned summit in his meetings in Istanbul this week with the Turkish and Egyptian foreign ministers as well as with Abbas.

The summit may also be discussed at Friday’s White House meeting between Obama and King Abdullah, as well as in a mid-May Washington visit by Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan. U.S. sources said that Israel may have been upset by the leak of the plan to convene the summit, spurring the U.S. to issue formal denials.

The Administration, according to the sources, is now inclined to convene such a ceremonial summit only if Kerry achieves a breakthrough that will allow a resumption of peace talks. Kerry has met with Abbas five times in recent weeks in an effort to circumvent the Palestinian leader’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a precondition to resuming negotiations.

“We have two or three weeks left to see if this thing is doable,” one source said.

“The Americans believe it is – but they may be naïve.” Kerry, the source added, is “working night and day” to get the peace process moving.

The Administration views the resumption of the peace process, among other things, as a way of strengthening the Palestinian Authority and the personal stature of President Abbas.