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Palestinians complain about U.S. absence in talks with Israel

August 22, 2013|By Edmund Sanders
  • Yasser Abed-Rabbo, left, with Nabil Shaath, told Voice of Palestine radio that Israel objected to an American seat at the negotiating table.
Yasser Abed-Rabbo, left, with Nabil Shaath, told Voice of Palestine radio… (Mati Milstein / EPA )

JERUSALEM -- With direct peace talks renewed, it’s hardly surprising that Israelis and Palestinians are bickering again at the negotiating table. But in a disappointing sign, the arguments so far seem to be about procedural matters rather than the core issues, like Jerusalem and borders.

Palestinians complain that after three rounds of talks American mediators have yet to join the process, despite promising to take an active role. Though newly appointed U.S. peace envoy Martin Indyk flew to Jerusalem for the latest rounds of negotiations earlier this week, he has not been present during actual talks, according to Yasser Abed-Rabbo, a senior official with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Israelis and Americans have refused to comment on the talks, saying they hope to keep the process low-profile.

Abed-Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio Thursday that Israel objected to an American seat at the table. But Palestinians insist that -- after 20 years of failed direct talks -- progress cannot be made without a third party like the U.S. ensuring neither side tries to drag its feet.

He said the failure of Indyk to attend the talks reflected poorly on whether the U.S. can pressure Israel to make concessions, if and when the time comes. “This is one sign of how and where the talks are heading if the U.S. is not able now to assert itself in the peace process,’’ he said.

Separately, Palestinians are warning that continued Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem may prompt them to file a complaint with the United Nations, even if peace talks are still underway.

Israel over the last month announced or advanced 3,200 units of Jewish housing on land it seized during the 1967 Middle East war.

“We are saying very clearly that if Israel does not stop, then we have to move,” said PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi.


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