U.S. says Middle East direct talks "very close" to start

08:36, August 20, 2010      

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U.S. State Department said on Thursday that the Middle East direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are "very close" to start, although there are still details of the process need to be worked out.

"Today we remain in touch with the parties and our international partners. We believe we are getting very close to an agreement to enter into (direct) negotiations," department spokesman Philip Crowley said at a regular briefing.

"We think we're well positioned to get there. But we continue to work on the details of this process," he said.

Crowley said, in an ongoing effort to start the direct negotiations, State Secretary Hillary Clinton on Thursday had called Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and Quartet Representative, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In March, the "Quartet" of Middle East peace mediators, namely the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, called for establishing the Palestinian state based on borders existed before 1967, setting a 24-month time frame for negotiations and suspending all Israeli settlement activities.

President of the Palestinian Authorities Mahmoud Abbas had indicated recently he could go to direct talks if they were based on the Quartet March statement.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to set any precondition for the talks. There is speculation that in order to placate Israel, the U.S. will issue a separate statement, of which the wording somewhat differs from the Quartet statement.

"If we reach the point we hope to arrive at, members of the quartet will demonstrate their support for the process; we will demonstrate our support for the process. And we will outline specifics of where we go from here," said Crowley, suggesting there might be a separate U.S. statement.

Source: Xinhua


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