U.S. Officials to Meet With Top PA Negotiator in Bid to Push Obama Policy for Talks

Saeb Erekat scheduled to meet with Acting Middle East Envoy David Hale, diplomat Dennis Ross at U.S. State Department; State Department spokesperson: 'Our goal is to get these parties back to the table'.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is scheduled to attend several meetings at the U.S. State Department Wednesday, in which U.S. officials are posed to push the PA negotiator to accept American terms for an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Erekat will meet with both Acting Middle East Envoy David Hale as well as diplomat Dennis Ross.

erekat - Dan Keinan - Dec 29 2008
Dan Keinan

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland discussed on Wednesday the upcoming Quartet meeting next week, saying “our goal is to get these parties back to the table.”

Nuland maintained that the U.S. position remains that a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood to the UN in September is “not a good idea” and is “not helpful”.

The U.S. spokesperson remained optimistic, however, saying “presumably, folks will be working on the former, so that we don't have the situation on the latter.”

Nuland continued, saying the Quartet meeting is meant to be an opportunity for its members to reassess the current state of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

She added that since Obama’s Middle East policy speech in May, Hale, Ross and other Quartet members have been engaging in dialogue with both Israeli and Palestinian officials in a bid to convince them to return to the negotiating table, using the U.S. president’s vision as a baseline for talks.

Nuland called the upcoming Quartet meeting, set to take place on Monday a “good opportunity for stock-taking among the major ministers involved”.

When asked to comment on the recently proposed French initiative to hold a peace conference in France, Nuland said that “the Secretary's [Clinton] position on this has not changed”, explaining that a conference at a time when neither Israel nor the Palestinians are ready or willing to come to the negotiating table is a moot point. She did not, however, discount the possibility of such a conference in the event that talks resume.

Nuland said that the U.S. plan for the interim is to continue working with Quartet partners, including leaders like French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who proposed the French peace plan on his visit to Israel last month.