Rice continues talks in Israel, West Bank

May 4th, 2008 - 7:16 pm ICT by admin  

Tel Aviv, May 4 (DPA) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was holding talks with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Sunday on her latest Mideast peace mission. Rice had talks late Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after her arrival in the region from London, and was due later Sunday to go on to the West Bank town of Ramallah to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Following that, she was to see Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and hold a joint news conference with her.

Israeli media said the initial talks of the day included improving daily life of Palestinians in the West Bank, above all by dismantling Israeli roadblocks.

The two-day visit aims at giving another push to the peace talks between the two sides amid US scepticism that the negotiations, launched at a US-hosted conference in November, will not succeed in achieving framework agreement for two states this year.

Rice, who is preparing for President George W Bush’s trip to the region later this month, has said she will urge Israel to refrain from undermining the Palestinian Authority and its security forces.

Rice Friday attended a top-level London meeting of representatives of the so-called Middle East Quartet which urged Arab states to honour aid pledges made to the Palestinians.

It also appealed to all sides to make “every effort” to reach a peace settlement by the end of this year. Rice warned Israel and the Palestinians do not have “unlimited time” to achieve a peace deal.

For the Palestinians, expansion of Israeli settlement blocs inside what will be part of their future statehood - the West Bank and East Jerusalem - is a major stumbling block to progress in the talks.

Olmert and Abbas are due to hold a meeting of their own in Jerusalem Monday after Rice’s departure, according to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Erekat reiterated Saturday that a peace deal could still be brokered this year “if Israel responds to international calls for stopping the settlements.”

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