Negotiator says Mitchell denied US guarantees
Published yesterday (updated) 30/09/2010 19:55
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A member of the PLO negotiating team said Thursday that
US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell denied reports in the Israeli
media that the US had offered Israel guarantees in exchange for freezing
Israel's Hebrew language daily Maariv reported Wednesday that US President
Barack Obama sent a letter of guarantees to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu in bid to save direct peace talks from collapse.
The guarantees were reportedly in exchange for an immediate halt to
settlement construction and dealt with issues around Israeli security
negotiated between Israel defense minister and head of the Israeli
negotiating team during visits to the US.
According to the report, Obama committed the US administration to providing
Israel with upgraded weapons if a final solution to the conflict is reached.
The US would also veto any attempt by Arab nations to present the
Palestinian issue to the UN Security Council for one year, and prevent
Palestinian negotiators from setting settlements as the central condition to
a peace agreement, the report said.
But PLO negotiator and Fatah leader Nabil Sha'ath said Mitchell denied the
"Mitchell's denial came during the meeting with President Abbas, and he
affirmed there are no such US guarantees concerning this issue," Sha'ath
told the Nazareth-based radio station Shams.
Israel's return to building settlements in the occupied territories has cast
the future of peace talks into question following a brief return to
negotiations following a 20-month hiatus sparked by Israel's assault on Gaza
in December 2008.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was scheduled to meet with Mitchell
shortly after her arrival to the region on Thursday and speak with Abbas the
day after. Informed sources told Ma'an that Abbas would sit with Mitchell
for a second set of discussions Friday.
Palestinian leaders have made clear in public that they will not compromise
on demands, made even before talks began on 2 September, that continued
settlement construction on lands intended for a Palestinian state under a
two-state solution would not be acceptable.
While Netanyahu said he hoped talks would continue, he has not agreed to
halt construction despite reports that the US offered the package of
incentives to get the peace process back on track. Netanyahu met with
Mitchell on Wednesday.
Abbas said he would discuss continuing talks at an Arab League meeting next