Israel seeking formula for Palestinian talks

AP News
Posted: Jul 29, 2011 7:27 PM
Israel seeking formula for Palestinian talks

Israel is trying to find "a formula" that will enable Mideast peace mediators to agree on a way to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday.

Diplomats from the so-called "Quartet" _ the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia _ failed earlier this month to find a basis for moving the peace process forward.

"I cannot promise you that it will happen, but we are still trying to do our best to enable it," Barak told reporters after meeting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The issue is pressing because the Palestinians say they are determined to seek U.N. recognition in September, a move that Israel and the United States, its closest ally, oppose without a negotiated peace settlement.

"We are still trying to find a formula that will enable understanding between the members of the Quartet in a way that will enable resumption of negotiations," Barak said, without elaborating.

The Palestinians insist they will not resume peace talks until Israel stops building settlements in occupied areas. Israel maintains that the Palestinians should not be setting conditions for talks and that settlements didn't stop them from negotiating in the past.

U.S. President Barack Obama upset Israel in May by endorsing its pre-1967 borders as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinians. Israel wants the Quartet to support its counter-demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a "Jewish state."

The Quartet has endorsed Obama's starting point _ borders for Palestine, security for Israel. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed it as "indefensible," saying the pre-1967 borders with agreed land swaps would leave major Jewish settlements outside Israel.

He also insists that Jerusalem must remain in Israel hands and that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, accept a demilitarized Palestinian state and drop demands for Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.

The Palestinians have rejected these conditions and are pressing ahead with their campaign for statehood.

"I still strongly prefer to see events developing through negotiations between us and the Palestinians that could lead to a peace agreement between us," Barak said.

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