Obama to host M. East summit with 'lower expectations'

US President is to host a summit of Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but Washington has no "grand expectations" from the talks

Obama to host M. East summit with 'lower expectations'



US President Barack Obama is to host a summit of Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but Washington admits it has no "grand expectations" from the talks.

In New York, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will be discussing the possibility of re-starting peace talks.

Israel has rejected US and Palestinian demands for a total freeze before a new round of talks can take place.

President Obama is bringing Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas together for the first time since Mr Netanyahu came to office in March.

In New York, Mr Obama, who has defined peace between Israel and the Palestinians as a "national interest" of the US, will first meet each leader separately, before hosting trilateral talks.

"We're looking to continue to build on progress," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. But he added that "we have no grand expectations out of just one meeting except to continue... the hard work, day-to-day diplomacy that has to be done to seek a lasting peace".

Israeli and Palestinian participants have also said they do not expect many concrete developments to emerge from the meeting.

Disagreements over the settlements issue have blocked all attempts to restart the peace talks so far.

US and Palestinian negotiators have said Israel must fully halt work on the construction of settlements in the West Bank before a new round of peace talks can take place, something Israel has refused to do.

Mr Netanyahu had previously offered a temporary freeze for several months, but not in East Jerusalem or in cases where homes have already been approved.

He argues that the "natural growth" of settler families must be accommodated. Before leaving for New York, the Israeli premier said he would not change his position.

The view from Palestine

Announcement of the planned meeting came despite pledges from Palestine Liberation Organization officials, including Abbas and head negotiator Saeb Erekat, not to hold talks with Israel without a settlement freeze.

Hamas officials and others have sharply criticized Abbas for agreeing to the talks.

"Unfortunately, what is truly happening is only an attempt to impose the US vision by making repeated attempts to launch negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and this is unacceptable," said Hamas leader Ayman Taha in an interview with Ma'an. He added that despite efforts to slow down Israel's settlement enterprise, America's resolve had proved "weak, biased and non-binding."

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine on Monday went as far as to call for Abbas to apologize in advance to the Palestinian people over his involvement in the trilateral summit. In a letter obtained by Ma'an, the DFLP said the president reneged on promises not to negotiate with settlements.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rodeina defended the meet, saying it should not be interpreted as negotiations. It is "just a trilateral summit meeting at the invitation of the American president," he told the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, noting that no talks were planned on major issues.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Eylül 2009, 16:47
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