Netanyahu: Start Talks ASAP
Maybe, says Abbas. Now, says Obama.
With expectations set so low for today’s three-way meeting between President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, what counts as success? Netanyahu said after the session that he thought the important thing was that everyone showed up. “The importance of this meeting was actually its existence—in this case, this common saying says a lot,” he said in a press conference.
He also told reporters ithat the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed that they should start talks again “as soon as possible, with no preconditions.” Abbas, for his part, seemed not quite to agree. In a statement, he said the Palestinians remain committed to the Bush road map, and would only start peace talks if the Israelis would agree to withdraw to 1967 borders. “We also demanded that the Israeli side fulfill its commitments on settlements, including natural growth,” he said.
Which is a little awkward, but no matter—Obama says he’s on it. “It is past time to stop talking about starting negotiations, and time to move forward,” he said, sternly, after talking with both men. He said envoy George Mitchell, whose fruitless trip to the Middle East last week provoked today’s last-minute session among the three leaders at the Waldorf-Astoria, would meet in Washington next week with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Hillary Clinton is due to report back on the status of the negotiations by mid-October. Why the rush? Well, he said, because peace isn’t just about the Israelis and the Palestinians. “It’s critical for the world, it is in the interests of the United States,” Obama said. “We are going to work as hard as necessary to accomplish our goals.”
PM: Israel, PA Agreed to Begin Talks Without Preconditions [JPost]
Netanyahu: All Sides Agree Peace Talks Should Start Soon [Ha’aretz]
Obama Calls for an End to Stalling on Mideast Talks [NYT]
Related: Photo Ops [Tablet]