The United States launched meetings in preparation for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Tuesday in Washington with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. She was scheduled to meet in the evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers.
The leaders were set to meet Wednesday with President Obama and launch the talks the next day under Clinton’s auspices. That meeting is set to last three hours.
P.J. Crowley, Clinton’s spokesman, said the talks would focus both on logistical and substantive issues. U.S. officials have said intensive meetings are still under way, a signal that the Israeli and Palestinian sides have yet to agree on the parameters for the talks.
“We want to see not just a successful process going forward but an understanding that we will be going forward,” Crowley said.
The Palestinians want to get to final status issues, including borders, Jerusalem and refugees, right away. The Israelis want to discuss security arrangements first.
Additionally, the Palestinians are threatening to withdraw unless Netanyahu extends a 10-month partial moratorium on building in the settlements that expires Sept. 26. Netanyahu is under pressure from within his government to suspend the freeze.
On Sunday night, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly met secretly with Abbas in Amman, Israeli media reported, hours after meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah at his palace. Barak reportedly returned to Israel to brief Netanyahu between the meetings.
Barak and Abbas reportedly discussed an Israeli easing of security measures in the West Bank, and Barak reiterated Israel’s commitment to the success of the talks.
Netanyahu left Israel Tuesday morning for Washington. After meeting Wednesday with Obama, he was to attend a dinner with Obama, Abbas, Abdullah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Quartet envoy Tony Blair. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet separately with each attendee.