Clinton, Barak to discuss reviving direct peace talks: US

WASHINGTON- US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will focus on reviving direct Israeli-Palestinian talks "as soon as possible" when they meet here Wednesday, a US official said.
The pair will also review Israel's announcement at the weekend to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip, run by the militant Hamas group, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters on Tuesday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
"They'll discuss the prospects for a comprehensive peace in the region, with a renewed focus on moving as soon as possible from proximity to direct negotiations to achieve a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he added.
The Palestinians reluctantly agreed to launch the indirect talks in May after months of shuttle diplomacy by US envoy George Mitchell, but said they would not move to direct talks without a complete Israeli settlement freeze.
Crowley said it was likely Mitchell, who returned at the weekend from another tour of the Middle East, will attend the talks with Barak and Clinton at the State Department on Wednesday.
The State Department has welcomed Israel's plans to ease its Gaza blockade and believes the move will greatly improve living conditions in the Palestinian enclave once it is actually implemented.
Israel announced at the weekend it would allow all strictly "civilian" goods into Gaza while preventing a specific list of weapons and dual-use items from entering the Hamas-run territory.
The diplomatic quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations plan to watch the implementation closely.
Crowley expected Clinton to "note that the US, along with the quartet ...., the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, and other concerned parties, will work with Israel to help ensure implementation of this new policy."
But the United States expects more from Israel, he added.
"I'm sure she will also mention that, while .... this is an important step forward, [...] there is still more progress to be made," Crowley said.
"And I'm sure she will welcome, too, Israel's formation of an independent public commission, including outside international observers to investigate the tragic events on board the flotilla headed toward Gaza," he said.
He added that the pair will also "discuss Israel's legitimate and urgent security concerns, including Syria, Iran, and Hamas and Hezbollah."
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, whose authority has been confined to the occupied West Bank since Hamas seized power in Gaza and ousted his forces in 2007, insisted Israel must completely lift the four-year-old blockade.

Wednesday, June 23rd 2010

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