US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had just a 4-day
visit to the Middle East, said Thursday she was encouraged by what
she had heard from Israeli and Palestinian officials during her
shuttle diplomacy in the region.
Though so, Rice also acknowledged tensions and gaps existing
between the two sides ahead of a US-hosted conference in late
November or December at Annapolis,
"I think they are very serious," Rice was quoted by the
Jerusalem Post as saying on Thursday before flying to London
for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II.
"The teams are serious. The people are serious. The issues are
serious. So I am not surprised that there are tensions. I am not
surprised that there are some ups and downs," she said.
"That is the character of this kind of endeavor, but I was
encouraged by what I heard," she added.
On Wednesday, Rice had expressed her optimism during a joint
press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, saying
there was a basis for moving forward in the process aimed at
achieving a Palestinian state living in peace alongside with
Wrapping up her four days of shuttle diplomacy, Rice stressed
that the current talks between Israel and the Palestinians are the
most serious that the two sides have ever had towards the
resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in about seven
Also on Wednesday, US President George W. Bush said in
Washington that it was important for Rice to help the Israelis and
the Palestinians make progress which would lead into the upcoming
Following Rice's visit, US National security adviser Stephen
Hadley will be sent to Middle East next week to begin a new round
of shuttle diplomacy. Rice herself will also return to the region
for further discussions with all parties involved in early
November, according to US
Nevertheless, Israel and the Palestinians have vastly different
expectations for the peace conference, where they are to present a
joint document that would start negotiations to create a
Livni said on Wednesday that the goal of current talks with the
Palestinians is to reach as wide as possible an understanding in
the time available ahead of the upcoming conference.
Livni warned against excessive expectations of the talks, saying
it could lead to frustration and violence.
However, Abbas accused Israel of hindering the endeavor to reach
a document with substance, saying the Palestinians won't go to the
peace conference at any price.
The Palestinians are demanding a comprehensive agreement with
Israel on all the core issues before the conference, as well as an
agreement on a timetable for implementing the agreement within a
fixed period of time. But the Israeli government are pushing for a
much more broad-brush
A joint declaration with the Palestinians at the international
peace conference might address the core issues of Jerusalem,
refugees and permanent borders, an Israeli official was quoted by
local popular Ha'aretz as saying on Thursday.
The senior source said Rice had reached an agreement with the
Palestinians, stating that the declaration "will address all core
issues and point to certain avenues to be pursued through
The anonymous official added, however, that the declaration will
not offer solutions to any of the aforementioned core issues.
Rice reportedly told the Palestinians that Israel will not
commit to a timetable for negotiations. Palestinians sources also
said that Israel will not have the Palestinian refugees' right of
return mentioned in the document.
The Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams will meet again on
Thursday or Friday to resume talks on the joint declaration.
(Xinhua News Agency October 19, 2007)