The UN's top Middle East envoy said there are "signs of hope"
that Israel and the Palestinians can agree to revive the stalled
peace process in time for a related US-sponsored international
conference in November.
Michael Williams, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East
peace process, on Wednesday said the conference, the revival of a
pan-Arab peace initiative, and, perhaps above all, the dialogue
between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas are among the encouraging signals.
The talks between Abbas and Olmert, most recently on Tuesday,
and the reform efforts of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
"have created growing expectations," Williams told the UN Security
"We cannot afford a new failure in the efforts to revive the
Arab-Israeli peace process," he said. "There is a hope now which
has been absent for almost seven years. A setback at this stage
could have serious consequences."
The Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday tackled core
issues that have tormented Mideast peacemakers for decades: what
the final borders of a Palestinian state would be; whether
Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's
creation would be allowed to return to their original homes in
Israel along with their descendants; and whether the holy city of
Jerusalem could be shared.
It was the first time Olmert and Abbas addressed the issues in
depth and represented a key building block for the planned November
conference. Williams said the Abbas-Olmert meetings are expected to
continue, with the next meeting slated for September 10, ahead of a
visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, told the council
"there is at this time a significant opportunity before us to end
the Israeli occupation and towards the attainment of the two-state
(China Daily via agencies August 31, 2007)