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Clinton starts meetings with Mideast leaders
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 31 - 08 - 2010

US Secretary of State Hillary RodhamClinton on Tuesday started a series of meetings with Middle East leaders in Washington ahead of direct Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations, local authorities said.
Clinton was first meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas, to be followed by Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and
an Egyptian delegation led by Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
She was scheduled to meet with former British prime minister Tony
Blair, the representative for the Middle East quartet, and Israeli
premier Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday evening.
The burst of activity Tuesday precedes a ceremonial White House
dinner hosted by US President Barack Obama on Wednesday, which is to
be attended by Abbas, Netanyahu, Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak and
Jordan's King Abdullah II.
Clinton will on Thursday open the first face-to-face talks between
the Israelis and the Palestinians in nearly two years.
Netanyahu left for Washington Tuesday on what Israeli President
Shimon Peres called "the most important task of our time" - answering
the call of peace.
Although officials from both sides, and foreign leaders, have made
the expected noises about seizing the opportunity for peace, the
talks this time are accompanied by a distinct scepticism, given the
lingering distrust between the sides.
Palestinians have also threatened to leave the negotiations unless
Netanyahu extends a moratorium on construction in Israeli West Bank
settlements beyond its current end date of September 26.
Netanyahu, however, faces the possibility of his nationalist
coalition partners bolting the government if he does so.
According to the Israeli Ha'aretz daily, Netanyahu has refused to
hold preliminary meetings with Abbas on the issue, and also nixed a
meeting between the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators,
Yitzhak Molcho and Saeb Erekat.
However Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who heads the centre-left
Labour Party in Netanyahu's coalition, met in Amman with Abbas.
According to the Jerusalem Post daily, Barak and Abbas discussed
Israel easing security restrictions on West Bank Palestinians, as a
confidence-building measure ahead of the talks.
The last round of direct peace Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was
suspended in late 2008, as Israel entered an election campaign that
ultimately brought Netanyahu to power.
Direct negotiations were not renewed after Netanyahu took office,
but the sides did begin indirect talks this spring.
-- SPA

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