Israel Sets out Border Provisions in Peace Talks

Washington, Jan. 27 - Israeli negotiators on Thursday evening presented their Palestinian counterparts with Israel’s position on the borders of a future Palestinian state, stipulating that in any permanent agreement most Israelis who live in the West Bank would remain part of Israel, while Palestinians in the West Bank would be part of a future Palestinian nation.

The presentation took place on the evening of the final day set for the preliminary talks by the two sides. That date was determined three months ago by the MidEast Quartet, which comprises the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia. Earlier in the day, the Palestinians had declared an impasse and said they were leaving the talks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone, with Merkel urging Israel’s leader “to do all he could from his side so that the current process could continue." She reportedly gave Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the same message.

The latest round of talks began Jan. 3 and have included five meetings between the two sides in Amman, Jordan, which is hosting the talks. The basic principles outlined by Israeli Envoy Yitzhak Molcho marked thefirst time Israel has put forward provisions on borders.

U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, assessing the talks, said the two sides “have clarified some issues. There are some things that they need to work on at home on both sides. And that perhaps a small pause, and then to come back with some fresh ideas will be helpful,” she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier in the week he wanted to continue the talks and told EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, “We've been trying to make sure that the talks between us and the Palestinians will continue. That is our desire.”

A Palestinian official, however, said “The Israelis brought nothing new in these meetings.”

Abbas walked out on the previous round of talks 15 months ago over the issue of Israeli housing construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He threatened to do the same in the current round of talks if Israel did not accept borders based on pre-1967 lines and stop all construction in the territories and East Jerusalem.

Abbas declared his disappointment over the latest set of negotiations even before the two sides had met a third time. In the midst of the talks, Abbas also traveled to the UK, Germany and Russia to discuss the negotiations with those countries’ heads of state and drum up new support for unilaterally declaring an independent Palestinian state, which would amount to an end-run around negotiations.

No more meetings are scheduled for the two sides. Abbas said this week he would decide his next moves after conferring with the Arab League Feb. 4.

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