x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Veil of secrecy over Israel-Palestine peace talks

Negotiators meet for five hours at an undisclosed location in Jerusalem and request that US officials – including Martin Indyk, Washington's Middle East peace envoy – not attend. Hugh Naylor reports from Ramallah

RAMALLAH // Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have resumed under a veil of secrecy and in the absence of their superpower broker: the United States.

Negotiators met for five hours at an undisclosed location in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening but requested that US officials - including Martin Indyk, Washington's Middle East peace envoy - not attend, Israel's media reported yesterday.

Citing unnamed sources, the Haaretz newspaper said Mr Indyk was told of the details after the meeting between Saeb Erekat, an aide to the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Israeli justice minister, Tzipi Livni.

It was unclear why Israel and especially the Palestinians, the weaker party to negotiations, would ask Washington to keep out of the talks, which resumed after months of pushing and prodding by the US secretary of state, John Kerry. Officials on both sides have refused to comment on the topic.

In an attempt to protect the talks from collapse, Mr Kerry has requested both sides to maintain silence on the details of the negotiations.

Mr Kerry has set a nine-month deadline for the parties to find a resolution after cajoling them back to negotiations following a three-year diplomatic lull.

Also citing an unnamed official, the Associated Press reported that both sides had agreed to meet weekly, with US officials attending those sessions.

But expectations remain low, in part because of Israeli announcements this week about plans for more than 2,000 additional settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Those areas, as well as the Gaza Strip, are wanted for a Palestinian state but at present house more than 500,000 Israeli settlers.

In a television interview before Wednesday's meeting, Ms Livni said Israel was committed to making the effort, "for the sake of Israel and for Israel's values" and that it would "be complicated and complex, but I am not giving up".

The last round of peace negotiations collapsed in September 2010 because Israel refused to stop constructing settler homes on occupied Palestinian land.

hnaylor@thenational.ae

twitter: For breaking news from the Gulf, the Middle East and around the globe follow The National World. Follow us