Washington will announce the renewal of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority through a trilateral summit of U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.The meeting would take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly late this month; two years would be allotted to completing talks on a peace agreement.On Monday President Shimon Peres confirmed that such a summit was being considered, under facilitation by Obama.
European and Israeli diplomats told Haaretz that Mitchell and other top Washington officials said “Obama has no new peace plan,” but only that the diplomatic outline is different from the so-called Annapolis process and is based on several guiding principles.
First is that talks will advance according to the Middle East road map. Second, the target for completing negotiations will be two years from now. Third, unlike the Annapolis process, the United States will take a more active role in the talks and will “take a seat at the negotiating table.”
The U.S. officials told the Europeans that in the coming weeks, possibly before the General Assembly opens, Washington could declare an agreement for “confidence-building measures” drafted by Israel and the Palestinians to allow talks to progress.
“We didn’t reach 100 percent of what we wanted in Israel and the Arab states, but we got enough to allow for the renewal of talks,” a U.S. official said.
The agreement would call for Israel to temporarily or partially freeze settlement building, though the length of the freeze was not stipulated. “In the next meeting with the Israeli negotiating team the issue will be settled conclusively,” a U.S. official said. Their counterparts in Jerusalem said the freeze could last at least six to nine months. One Israeli source said the freeze could last up to a year.
Meanwhile, the American officials said they had achieved a series of normalization steps by Arab states toward Israel, though Saudi Arabia had declined to commit to any goodwill gestures toward Israel. Instead, it is transferring several hundred million dollars to the authorities in Ramallah.
One European diplomat said Qatar would reopen the Israeli diplomatic mission in Doha, and several other states will allow direct flights from Israel through their airspace and to their airports. Several Persian Gulf states also agreed to grant tourist visas to Israeli tourists and businesspeople.
The American officials said that after talks are renewed, they would be interested in convening an international peace summit before the end of this year. European and Israeli diplomats said Moscow is a leading possibility to host the meeting, and that members of the Quartet of Mideast peace negotiators had already promised Russia to hold it in that nation’s capital.
Another candidate to host the meeting is Paris.