Uncertain future for fresh U.S. peace-talk efforts

20:42, December 13, 2010      

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New efforts are underway to salvage the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell will visit the region on Monday for talks.

Yet a big question mark arises as to whether or not the peace talks will resume or make any progress with the new round of diplomatic shuttling of the United States, which decided to abandon its efforts to persuade Israel to suspend Jewish settlements construction in the West Bank for another three months after a ten-month moratorium expired late September.

Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian negotiator, said on Sunday Mitchell's upcoming visit was unlikely to make any progress as the U.S. position was "untrue, fruitless and has not pushed the peace process forward."

Meanwhile, political analysts cast doubt on the effects of the talks.

"The U.S. is playing a double role," said Abdul Mashaal, a former Egyptian diplomat. "It wants to bolster the peace process but meanwhile it gives Israel the chance to get into Palestinian territories."

Mashaal said the U.S. believes pressurizing Israel too much will do no good to Israeli-U.S. relations.

If Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisted on the request of freezing settlements construction, Israel will nevertheless continue building more settlements, he added.

Abbas reiterated on Dec. 9 in Cairo after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that there would be no further negotiations with Israel as long as the latter doesn't freeze the settlement construction.

The United States last Tuesday indicated that it will give up effort to push Israel to extend its moratorium on West Bank settlement activities, being convinced that this tactic will not work.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last Friday that now it is time for Israel and the Palestinians to "grapple with core issues" of their decades-long conflict. The core issues included the borders, security, refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian and Israeli leaders started U.S.-brokered indirect talks in May this year. In September, the two sides held two rounds of direct talks. Yet no substantial progress was made although core issues were touched upon in the second round of direct talks on Sept. 14 and 15.

Mitchell's visit will be the start of the fresh U.S. efforts to push forward the peace process. The U.S. said it still expected the two sides to reach a framework peace deal on all core issues within a year.

It needs time to see how a return to indirect talks effectively deals with the inter-related core issues between the two sides.

Abbas has also said the Palestinians would consult with the Arab Initiative follow-up committee members before making decisions on the peace talks.

The Palestinian side have been seeking other choices. Earlier this month, Abbas said in Turkey that he would press for more states to recognize an independent Palestinian state if peace talks with Israel collapse. Brazil and Argentina have recently announced their recognition of an independent Palestinian state. Palestinian officials expect more countries to make their declarations of the recognition.

Nabil Zaki, a political analyst in Cairo, said that the recognition would provide more support for the Palestinians and isolate Israel.

Another choice for the Palestinians is to go to the UN Security Council and seek an international recognition of the Palestinian state if the peace talks fail, analysts say.

"Yet this plan faces uncertainties. First, the UN resolution may be blocked. Second, even if the resolution is passed, whether or not it will be implemented remains a question," Zaki said.

Source: Xinhua
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