Shaath: Israeli-Palestinian Talks to Resume Soon in Middle East
Direct contacts between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume soon in the Middle East, a senior Palestinian official said in Washington Friday after conferring with US national security advisor Sandy Berger.
"I think there will be a Palestinian-Israeli meeting soon in the area," said Palestinian international cooperation minister Nabil Shaath, after a meeting lasting more than one hour with Berger at the White House.
But the minister said he was not sure whether a senior US representative would be able to attend these discussions.
Shaath, a member of the Palestinian delegation taking part in US-mediated talks with Israeli representatives in New York since Thursday, said he would return home Sunday after attending a seminar in Washington this weekend.
The US-mediated talks in New York entered a second day Friday, with US officials cautioning against optimism even as there appeared to be some movement.
Special US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross met negotiators from both sides there, continuing discussions begun on Thursday when he and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright held similar talks.
A State Department official told AFP that Washington did not expect the entire Palestinian delegation -- led by Saeb Erakat and Colonel Mohammed Dahlan -- to stay in New York beyond late Friday or early Saturday.
However, another department official said lower-level talks were possible in the coming days, and that there was a chance Ross might travel to the region at the end of next week.
Ross' talks in New York were described by one senior US official as "tough."
"We haven't found a magic formula, there's no mojo here yet, but there's still a basis for continuing our work," the official told reporters late Thursday.
Israelis and Palestinians say the meetings are aimed at putting in writing proposals and possibilities discussed at the failed Camp David peace summit in July.
US officials decline to comment on any details of the talks, however.
Camp David collapsed after 15 days of intense negotiations largely over Jerusalem.
In Washington, President Bill Clinton called Friday for patience in the peace talks, acknowledging there had been "no big breakthroughs".
"We should all wait and see," he said. "No reason for hope, no reason for despair. They're after it, they know they're on the short timeframe, and they're working." - WASHINGTON (AFP)
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