Still enough time for Mideast deal: Rice

June 25th, 2008 - 3:09 am ICT by IANS  

Berlin, June 25 (DPA) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that she believed there was still enough time for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to reach a framework deal for peace as envisaged by the Annapolis conference in Washington. Serious negotiations were continuing and the government of Israel remains committed to what was agreed in November 2007 in Annapolis, Rice said at the end of a meeting of the Mideast Quartet of mediators in Berlin.

The quartet reaffirmed its support for the ongoing negotiations and stressed the urgent need for tangible progress toward the shared goal of an agreement by the end of 2008 on the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

The quartet, founded in 2003 to promote the peace process, comprises representatives from the US, the UN, the European Union and Russia.

In a statement the panel “reiterated its deep concern at continuing settlement activity” by Israel and called on the Jewish state to halt such activity and dismantle outposts erected since March 2001.

Referring to the Gaza Strip, where a fragile truce has been in force since June 19, the quartet urged that the calm be respected in full and expressed the hope that it would endure.

Palestinian militants were reported to have violated the truce earlier Tuesday by launching rockets at targets in Israel, a situation which EU foreign policy supremo Javier Solana said made everyone “aware of the difficulties at the moment.”

The panel also said it was looking forward to increased humanitarian flows through Gaza crossings under the management of the Palestinian Authority, following Israel’s promise to ease its blockade.

It also expressed its “strong support for the steady and sufficient supplies of fuel to Gaza and for the resumption of stalled UN and other donor projects there.”

The meeting took place after an international donors conference in Berlin pledged 242 million dollars to upgrade the Palestinian police force and judicial system.

Tony Blair, the EU envoy to the quartet, said “there is tremendous interest in capacity building that would make Palestine a secure state alongside the state of Israel.”

“It is important to keep pushing towards a negotiated solution,” he said.

The quartet also welcomed the resumption of indirect talks between Syria and Israel under Turkish auspices and said its members would meet again in September at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

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