Israelis, Palestinians to Hold Secret Talks in Sweden
Two top Palestinian officials have left for Sweden for negotiations with Israeli officials after the two sides missed a second deadline for a draft peace pact, Palestinian sources said Sunday.
Palestinian legislative council speaker Ahmed Qorei and cabinet member Hassan Asfur were due to meet Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben Ami and another official from Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office, the sources said, without giving further details.
Earlier, Israeli radio reported that Barak had dispatched Ben Ami to conduct secret negotiations in Europe, accompanied on his mission by close Barak aide Gilad Sher.
The radio said the purpose of the talks would be to formulate “general features” of a possible final-status, quoted by Iranian news agency (IRNA), that described both Qrei and Abbas are considered the most dovish of the doves among the current PA leadership.
The Israeli radio added Ben Ami had already met secretly with PLO number two Mahmud Abbas and with Qorei for an "exchange of ideas" to help advance the official peace talks.
"There are and have been contacts on different levels," Barak's spokesman Gadi Baltiansky was quoted as saying in the press.
Baltiansky was attending a cabinet meeting with Barak and the prime minister's office told AFP he was not available for comment.
The Palestinians put the blame squarely on Israel for failing to meet a May 13 deadline for a draft peace accord on an array of thorny issues -- the future of Jerusalem, the borders and nature of a future Palestinian state, and the fate of both Jewish settlements and the 3.5 million Palestinian refugees.
The two sides previously missed a February target date for an outline agreement and prospects of meeting a September deadline for a final peace to end decades of conflict are looking increasingly doubtful.
Palestinian frustration at the lack of progress spilled over into rioting during demonstrations in several West Bank towns for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The demonstrations, which have injured dozens, continued Sunday in Gaza.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, meanwhile, were meeting in Jerusalem to discuss Palestinian demands for the release of more prisoners – (Agencies)
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