US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross arrived in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat Tuesday with a beefed-up mandate to push forward a new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks amid early reports of progress.
It will be the first time since Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak came to power in July that Ross will act as a mediator in the negotiations aimed at creating a framework peace accord in the next two weeks, according to a US diplomat.
EU envoy Miguel Moratinos, who held meetings with both the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, said the Eilat round has so far been productive.
"Both sides said there has been some progress. I can say there has been progress. There are difficulties, but this is normal when they are working on final status (issues)," he told reporters.
"They're working hard to get to the scheduled timetable."
Ross arrived in Eilat Tuesday evening and met Israel's chief negotiator Oded Eran at the airport, before Eran headed to Jerusalem to see Barak.
Previously, the Palestinians had called for US mediation while Israel consistently said differences should be worked out without Washington's help. The reason for the change was not immediately clear. However, at times the Palestinians have expressed concern that the United States is siding with Israel.
Ross met a hostile reception outside the hotel at the Red Sea resort of Eilat where Israel and the Palestinians are holding talks. A group of about 40 Jewish settlers opposed to the negotiations shouted "Dennis Ross, go home," as he went past.
In a surprising reversal, Israel said yesterday that it would accept any role the United States chooses to play in peace treaty talks, while the Palestinians said they want to limit US involvement. In the past, the Palestinians repeatedly asked for US mediation, while Israel insisted that differences should be worked out without Washington's help. The reason for the change was not immediately clear. However, the Palestinians have expressed concern in the past that the United States often sides with Israel.
The US envoy attended some of the previous negotiating sessions at Bolling Air Force Base near Washington, but was not an active participant. However, the United States has said it would step up its involvement, including presenting its own proposals, to help the two sides formulate a framework for a peace treaty – (Agencies)
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