US, Israeli and Palestinian officials meet to debate "road map"
(dpa) - US General William Fraser held his first trilateral meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials Friday, since he was appointed by President George W. Bush to supervise both sides' implementation of the "road map" peace plan.
Acting Prime Minister Salam Fayyad attended the meeting in Jerusalem on behalf of the Palestinians, while Israel sent a senior official in the Defence Ministry, Amos Gilad, a major-general in the reserves and in charge of diplomatic and security affairs.
A US embassy spokesman said Fraser would not make his evaluation, which he was to present to the sides in a report, public.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed in Annapolis, Maryland in November to end a seven-year freeze in the peace process and strive for an agreement before the end of 2008.
The sides also revived the long-stalled, US-sponsored 2003 road map, which demands Israel uproot unauthorized settlers' outposts and freeze construction in formal settlements, while the Palestinians must arrest and disarm militants.
The sides stipulated that the implementation of any agreement reached this year would be subject to implementation of these road map demands.
Bush said at the time the US would play the role of a "judge" and oversee each side met their road map commitments, and announced the appointment of General Fraser to the task during his visit to the region in January.
The revived peace negotiations have been overshadowed by surging violence in the Gaza Strip and Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and key settlement blocs.
And Abbas suspended peace talks after five days of deadly Gaza violence late last and early this month left more than 125 Palestinians and five Israelis dead.
Rice said during her latest visit to the region that the sides agreed to resume the negotiations.
But she criticized this week an Israeli plan to build some 750 new houses in a Jewish neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, Givat Ze'ev, calling the plan "not helpful."