Palestinians, Israelis to meet again to save talks

Officials accompanied by U.S. envoy Martin Indyk met on Sunday but the session ended without any breakthrough

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Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to meet again on Monday in a fresh effort to salvage the teetering, U.S.-brokered peace process, Agence France-Presse reported U.S. and Palestinian officials as saying.

“Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met last night to discuss ways to overcome the crisis in the talks,” a U.S. official said.

“The meeting was serious and constructive, and both sides requested that the United States convene another meeting today (Monday) to continue the effort.”

A Palestinian official confirmed to AFP that a meeting was scheduled for later Monday, but neither side gave a time or location.

Accompanied by U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, the two sides met on Sunday evening, but Palestinian sources told AFP that the session ended without any breakthrough and an Israeli official was quoted by local media as saying the process was on the edge of collapse.

Israel’s parliament was also meeting in special session on Monday during its spring recess, for a debate on the peace negotiations called by opposition MPs critical of the government’s handling of the talks.

‘Not at any price’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his first public comments on a crisis in U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians, said on Sunday that Israel was prepared to continue negotiations but “not at any price,” Reuters reported.

Netanyahu also warned of unilateral action against Palestinians if any attempt any unilateral moves themselves.

Indyk attempted to rejuvenate Mideast peace negotiations after Israelis and Palestinians took counter offensive measures, bringing the talks near to an imminent collapse.

The U.S. envoy gave diplomacy another chance on Sunday when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a big announcement saying that Washington was going to review its role as mediator of peace talks for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final settlement status.

Kerry made the announcement when Israel rejected releasing the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners, a key condition for the peace talks to continue.

In response, the Palestinians infuriated the Israelis when they sought to gain wider international recognition by attempting to attain a full-fledged U.N. membership, and join 15 other international organizations. This made Israel consider imposing more sanctions on the Palestinians.

Some hope?

Meanwhile, some observers believe that the peace process is still alive.

Commentator Tal Harris of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue movement One Voice wrote in the Jerusalem Post on Monday: “Although it might smell funny, it isn’t dead yet.”

Harris said there should be teams of experts set up to work on issues such as disputes on water and energy, rather than focusing only on deadlocked political talks.

“Kerry must reveal some of the progress that was made so far, and Netanyahu and Abbas need to engage in the process more directly,” he added.

“The diplomatic process sometimes feels irrelevant to the lives of ordinary citizens on the ground.”

(With AFP and Reuters)