Diplomatic efforts to salvage the Mideast peace process have failed to lead to a breakthrough as US special envoy George Mitchell joined EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to seek ways to end the deadlock.
Time is running out for a Middle East compromise
Speaking in Jerusalem at the end of a two-day visit on Friday, October 1, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, urged Israel to extend a ten-month moratorium on building new Jewish settler homes in the occupied West Bank.
Ashton said she traveled to the region to show "my personal commitment and that of the EU to the continuation of peace talks - talks that would lead to viable two-state solution within one year."
Ashton commited to two-state solution within one year
Senior officials in both Washington and Brussels have made clear that they want Israel to extend the moratorium on settlement building. Its expiry last Sunday prompted Palestinian threats to quit the talks, which were launched four weeks ago in Washington.
"I have urged Israel to continue the moratorium and to allow the talks more time to make great progress," Ashton said after a series of meetings on Thursday and Friday with Mitchell, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad.
Security guarantees rejected
Israeli media reports said that Netanyahu rejected security guarantees, including new weaponry, proposed by the Obama administration in exchange for a 60-day extension of the moratorium.
The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot said Washington promised to support an Israeli demand to leave troops along the border of a future Palestinian state.
The White House denied it had offered security guarantees
The Palestinians reportedly received assurances from the White House that a future Palestinian state would have its borders across the territory seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
"Those of us that have been engaged in the process have been very concerned that the ending of the moratorium should not put at risk the possibility of long-term peace," Ashton said, describing her talks as "positive and constructive."
Netanyahu, whose governing coalition is dominated by settler supporters, has said he is willing to discuss settlements as a final status issue.
After Friday's talks failed to reach a compromise, Mitchell left the region for talks with Arab leaders. On Wednesday, the Arab League had been scheduled to meet in Cairo to decide whether to extend its support for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. That meeting will now take place in Libya on October 6. Abbas is expected to announce his final decision on whether to return to the negotiating table for direct peace talks with Israel.
Author: Nigel Tandy (dpa/Reuters/AP)
Editor: Toma Tasovac