Tue, Apr 08, 2014 - Page 7 News List

No breakthrough seen in last-ditch Middle East talks

AFP, JERUSALEM

Last-ditch talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on salvaging a teetering, US-brokered peace process ended without a breakthrough on Sunday, Palestinian sources said.

“The crisis continues. During the whole meeting, the Israelis threatened the Palestinians and no solution to the crisis was found,” a Palestinian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Warning that the peace process was on the edge of collapse, an Israeli official close to the talks said that even US Secretary of State John Kerry, its tireless sponsor, was cooling off.

“The way it’s looking now, the talks as they were several weeks ago are no longer relevant,” the source told Israeli news Web site Ynet.

“Israel is preparing to return to routine dealings with the Palestinians as they were before the negotiations started nine months ago,” the source said.

“We are noticing a real coolness in the way the Americans are treating [the peace process] and it’s obvious that today’s Kerry is not the same Kerry from a few weeks ago,” the official added.

However, a second official said another chance needed to be given to the efforts of Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni.

“We have to wait a few more days... A lot of efforts are being done to salvage the situation,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to retaliate if the Palestinians proceed with applications to adhere to 15 international treaties.

“These will only make a peace agreement more distant,” he said of the applications the Palestinians made on Tuesday last week. “Any unilateral moves they take will be answered by unilateral moves at our end.”

Netanyahu’s remarks, made at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting, came hours before Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met US envoy Martin Indyk in an attempt to save the peace process.

The three-way meeting began in the afternoon and ended in the evening in Jerusalem.

Kerry, the driving force behind the peace push, warned on Friday last week that there were “limits” to the time and energy Washington could devote to the talks process, as his appeals to both sides to step back from the brink fell on deaf ears.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Kerry’s plea to withdraw the treaty applications and Netanyahu ignored US appeals to refrain from tit-for-tat moves, asking for a range of retaliatory options.

Israel says Abbas’ move was a clear breach of the commitments the Palestinians gave when the talks were relaunched in July last year to pursue no other avenues for recognition of their promised state.

The Palestinians say Israel had already reneged on its own undertakings by failing to release a fourth and final batch of prisoners a week ago and that the treaty move was their response.

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