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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Hope revived for restarting Middle East peace talks

Israel backed out of its promise to release Palestinian prisoners

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TEL AVIV, Palestine - The Middle East peace process is facing hitches, almost collapsing, but some hope is still left with Palestinians as well as Israeli leaders expressing their readiness to revive the faltering efforts brokered by the United States. 

The two sides on Sunday blamed each other for obstructing the negotiations. But nonetheless they were willing to keep talking, on conditions though. The Reuters wire news service citing an unnamed US official said that the both sides met Sunday night "to discuss ways to overcome the crisis in the talks". 

They asked Washington to organise another session Monday, the official told Reuters.

Last week, Israel backed out of its promise to release Palestinian prisoners. The move was followed by Palestinians reviving a campaign for international recognition of the "state of Palestine".

The Israeli and Palestinian moves, which ran contrary to their commitments to the peace process, almost collapsed the initiative till US Secretary of the State John Kerry chided the two sides stating that the US efforts cannot be stretched endlessly.

Kerry warned Friday that there were "limits" to the time and energy Washington could devote to the negotiation process.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Kerry's plea to withdraw the treaty applications. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also ignored US appeals to refrain from tit-for-tat moves, asking for a range of retaliatory options.

Israeli prime minister on Sunday told his weekly cabinet meeting that "we are ready to continue talks".

Netanyahu condemned the Palestinian move of signing on to join 15 international bodies to seek international recognition as a state. He said a Palestinian state only would come about through negotiations.

"The Palestinians substantially violated the understandings that were reached with American involvement," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said Israel would respond with steps of its own if the Palestinians pressed ahead with unilateral actions toward statehood. He did not elaborate. "They will achieve a state only by direct negotiations, not by empty statements and not by unilateral moves," he said.

"These will only push a peace agreement further away unilateral steps on their part will be met with unilateral steps on our part. We are ready to continue the talks but not at any price." Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also said his side was also willing to move forward. "We are trying to save it. I think there is a mutual interest by all parties," Erekat told Israeli Channel 2 TV.

A senior foreign policy adviser for President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party also expressed the view but not without critcising Netanyahu for his latest statement.

"If Netanyahu considers the Palestinians committing themselves to international law -- including committing themselves to empowering woman and protection of children -- is a provocation that calls for Israeli punishment, then what the Palestinians are saying all of these years have been proven beyond doubt that Israel considers international law to be hindrance for peace," said Hussam Zomlot.

The deadline to agree to a framework for a comprehensive peace treaty expires April 29. Kerry and his aides have struggled to get the parties to extend the talks. 

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