US insists now is the 'right time' for direct Mideast talks

WASHINGTON- The United States said Monday now is the right time for Palestinians and Israelis to resume direct negotiations, warning there would be consequences if they failed to do so.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley declined to confirm that President Barack Obama had warned Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas that a failure could undermine US-Palestinian ties, but also failed to deny reports to that effect.

US insists now is the 'right time' for direct Mideast talks
"We strongly believe that this is the time where the parties need to move from proximity talks into direct negotiations," Crowley told reporters.
"Our message is this is the right time and it's an opportunity that both sides should not forsake," he added.
The Palestinians and Israelis have since May been holding indirect "proximity" talks -- with former US senator George Mitchell acting as a go-between -- but they have not held direct negotiations since Israel launched a military offensive against Hamas militants in December 2007.
Abbas has conditioned the resumption of direct negotiations on a complete Israeli halt to settlement building in the Palestinian West Bank.
Crowley said he was encouraged that Arab nations agreed to "green light" direct talks when they met in Cairo late last month.
"We have a strong sense of urgency as to where we are," Crowley said when reporters repeatedly asked whether Obama had warned Abbas that a Palestinian failure to join talks would hurt US-Palestinian relations.
"There are consequences to... failing to take advantage of this opportunity," Crowley said.
"There are consequences just in terms of the Middle East itself and how... the Israeli citizens, Palestinians, how other countries evaluate this and will draw their own conclusions if these leaders at this time... fail to take advantage of this opportunity," Crowley said.
In the West Bank at the weekend, a Palestinian official told AFP on the condition of anonymity that Obama had warned the Palestinians there would be consequences for ties with Washington if they declined to join new talks.
The officials said the warning came in a letter to Abbas that also pledged to rally Arab, European and Russian support for the Palestinians if direct negotiations did resume.
The 16-point letter had a "carrot-and-stick approach," he added.
Obama stressed "it is high time to resume direct negotiations with Israel" and told Abbas that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "is ready to resume direct negotiations."
The letter warned that "Obama will absolutely not accept the rejection of his recommendation to move to direct negotiations and that there will be consequences for such a rejection in the form of a lack of trust in president Abbas and the Palestinian side," the official said.

Monday, August 2nd 2010

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