Bethlehem – Ma’an – US president Barak Obama is planning to hold a tripartite meeting by the end of September with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an attempt to revive peace negotiations, an Israeli newspaper said.
The Hebrew-language daily Ma’ariv quotes ranking Israeli officials as saying that Obama plans to hold the meeting during the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting which both Abbas and Netanyahu will attend.
Obama seeks a resumption of long-frozen final status negotiations, which were officially broken off when Israel launched its three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip in December. Israel and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority held a year of fruitless negotiations in 2007 and 2008.
The newspaper added that the US administration recently increased pressure on Israel to freeze settlement completely in order to create conditions for resumed negotiations.
However, Ma’ariv soures denied the existance of any US-Israel agreement to freeze settlement construction.
Netanyahu is expected to explain his government’s position on settlement construction during a meeting with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell in London next week.
Ma’ariv went on to say that Israel is trying to test the reactions of some Arab states which have signaled a willingness to begin normalizing ties with Israel if settlement construction is stopped. In spite of this, the report states, Israel wants to avoid making any initial concessions, insisting that Arab countries move toward normalization first.
In its report, Ma’ariv highlighted that Obama and Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak discussed a US peace plan in their meeting yesterday in Washington, agreeing that final status talks should resume. They referred to the progress made by the Palestinian Authority in the fields of security and economy in the West Bank, as well as removal of some Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank which will help create positive atmosphere for negotiations.