U.S. urges Israel, Palestinians to move into direct negotiations
The United States on Monday said there would be no peace between Israel and the Palestinians without direct talks, saying "the time is right" for the two sides to take actions for peace, Xinhua reported.
"We strongly believe that this is the time where the parties need to move from proximity talks into direct negotiations. We think there are clear benefits to taking that step at this time," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that he was ready for direct talks within days, while Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas has hesitated to hold face-to-face talks with Netanyahu.
Reports here said that U.S. President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Abbas warning that if he refuses to move from proximity talks into direct negotiations with Israel, it could harm relationship with Washington.
"Absent a direct negotiation, there will be no end of the conflict, there will be no peace agreement and there will be no Palestinian state. That's a fact," said Crowley, adding that moving to direct negotiations is "not a threat."
"It's an opportunity here that we think after weeks and months of working with the parties, gaining a better understanding of where they are and what they want to do, we think the time is right," said the spokesman.
At a joint appearance with Netanyahu on July 6 in the White House, President Obama said he hopes the direct negotiations between the PNA and the Netanyahu-led government could be held in September.
Under the pressure mounted by the Obama administration, the Israeli government and the PNA resumed their talks in May, although in an indirect way mediated by U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, ending a 17-month-long stalemate.
Obama has urged both sides to resume direct talks in order to reach a permanent agreement that could lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. But the two sides ignored the call because of dispute over Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians insists the talks should not be resumed until the Israelis totally freeze the Jewish settlement construction, while the Israeli side blames the PNA of setting condition for resuming the talks and vows to ensure the "natural growth" of the Jewish settlements.