Israelis, Palestinians seeking to extend peace talks: US
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are hammering out a way to extend their faltering peace talks beyond an April 29 deadline, a US official said Tuesday, refuting calls from a leading daily to call it quits.
More talks between the two sides will be held on Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, although it was not immediately clear if US lead negotiator Martin Indyk would take part.
"The parties are working right now on an agreement to extend the negotiations, and that means extending the negotiations past April 29," Psaki told reporters.
"There are naturally a range of issues being discussed. There are steps that both parties would need to take in order to improve the conditions for peace but the parties remain highly engaged," she said.
The peace talks, which were kickstarted by US Secretary of State John Kerry in July after a three-year hiatus, hit a major crisis this month when both sides took what Washington has called unhelpful steps.
The Palestinians launched moves to join 15 UN treaties and bodies, while Israel refused to release the last tranche of Palestinian prisoners and unveiled plans for 700 more settler homes in east Jerusalem.
"Both parties tell us they want negotiations to continue and they're searching for a path to do just that," Psaki told reporters.
She dismissed a call from the editorial board of The New York Times, which headlined an opinion piece late Monday "In the Middle East, Time to Move on" and argued that neither side had shown they were serious about making peace.
"It is time for the administration to lay down the principles it believes must undergird a two-state solution, should Israelis and Palestinians ever decide to make peace," the respected daily wrote.
"Then President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should move on and devote their attention to other major international challenges like Ukraine."
Psaki said she had read the editorial but did not agree with the notion.
"Neither do the negotiators. Neither do the parties. Neither does the secretary," she said.
"The Israeli and the Palestinian people deserve a two-state solution where parties are living side by side and they have the economic opportunity and the security that they deserve," Psaki added.
"And that's why the parties remain committed and why they're working so hard on extending negotiations."