No concessions in Middle East talks

Negotiations in Sharm el-Sheikh end without agreements on Israeli settlements but leaders agree to meet in Jerusalem.

    Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed to try to reach a comprehensive peace deal within a year

    Israeli and Palestinian leaders have failed in talks in Sharm el-Sheikh to resolve disputes over Jewish settlement building, but the one year timeline for a comprehensive peace deal remains, US envoy George Mitchell has said.

    No news emerged of any compromise on settlements or other issues emerged after talks on Tuesday between Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state and George Mitchell, the US Middle East peace envoy.

    Despite the lack of progress on all issues, the talks will continue in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

    With a 10-month Israeli moratorium on housing starts in settlements in the occupied West Bank due to expire on September 30 and without agreements on core issues including Israel's security, the borders of a future Palestinian state, the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, many analysts do not hold high expectations for future talks.

    "Because of the lack of optimism, the negotiations are being conducted in secrecy," Al Jazeera's political analyst Marwan Bishara, said.

    "We don't know what precisely is going on in these two rounds", he said, after Tuesday's meeting. The current series of direct talks between Palestinian and Israeli leaders began in Washington on September 2, after a 20-month hiatus.

    'Real obstacles'

    Nabil Abu-Rdainah, a spokesman for the Palestinian president, described the US sponsored talks as "serious" adding that there were "still real obstacles".

    Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Sharm el-Sheikh, said that settlements remain the main issue and that any sort of agreement "does not look promising".

    Hillary Clinton had repeated US President Barack Obama's call for Israel to extend the 10-month moratorium on illegal settlements that is due to expire at the end of the month.

    But aside from those sorts of statements, which carry little weight on the ground in the occupied territories, the "Americans came pretty much empty handed" to the talks, Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh said, reporting from Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. 

    "They [US negotiatiors] had no solution to bridge the gap between Palestinians and Israelis," she said.

    Talks to continue

    "Many Palestinian officials tell us off the record that no American administration would allow these talks to fail so early in the process.

    "Today they talked in circles not agreeing what to talk about in Sharm el-Sheikh or Jerusalem," our correspondent said.

    Al Jazeera's Marwan Bishara said that settlement building is useful for Israel, because it becomes the focus of negotiations, rather than final status issues such as the future of Jerusalem or the right of return for Palestinian refugees.  

    After talks ended in the Egyptian resort, Clinton travelled on to Jerusalem to hold further talks there, in Ramallah and in Amman, the Jordanian capital, over the next two days.

    As talks are set to continue, Nour Odeh said that: "Thousands of [illegal settlement] buildings are approved and ready for construction come the end of September."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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