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Source: United States of America
14 September 2010

Briefing by Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Mitchell on Meetings with Israeli, Palestinian, and Egyptian Leaders

Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt
September 14, 2010

MR. MITCHELL: Today’s meeting lasted about one hour and forty minutes. The meeting involved Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, Secretary of State Clinton, and myself. We all are grateful to President Mubarak, to Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit, and to the Egyptian Government for their courtesy and hospitality in arranging these meetings and for their continued strong support for President Obama’s vision of comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The day began with President Mubarak hosting separate bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, and Secretary Clinton. The Secretary also met bilaterally with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. This was followed by the multilateral meeting, which I’ve just described. And as soon as I complete this briefing, I will attend with the other leaders a lunch hosted by President Mubarak for all of the participants.

Today, the parties have begun a serious discussion on core issues. President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu also reiterated their intent to approach these negotiations in good faith and with a seriousness of purpose. They repeated their condemnation of all forms of violence that target innocent civilians and pledged to work together to maintain security. All of us reaffirmed our commitment to reaching a shared goal of a just, lasting, and secure peace. Our common goal remains two states for two peoples. And we are committed to a solution to the conflict that resolves all issues for the state of Israel and a sovereign, independent, and viable state of Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu continued to agree that these negotiations, whose goal is to resolve all core issues, can be completed within one year. As I said recently in Washington, the parties have agreed to begin first on working to achieve a framework agreement for permanent status. That work is now well underway. The parties agree that for these negotiations to succeed, they must be kept strictly confidential and treated with the utmost of sensitivity. So as in the past, today and as we proceed in the future, what I and they are able to disclose to you about the details of the meetings is and will be very limited.

They agreed that after the leaders meeting tomorrow in Jerusalem, their negotiators would meet again in the coming days to continue these negotiations and to lay the groundwork for the next round of talks at the leadership level. These face-to-face talks are critical for both sides to continue to build trust and confidence.

As both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have said, the United States pledges its full support to the parties in these talks. We will be an active and sustained partner throughout. We will put our full weight behind these negotiations and will stand by the parties as they make the difficult decisions necessary to secure a better future for their citizens.

Thank you very much for your patience. I apologize for the fact that you had to wait. The meeting did go on, as I said, for quite a lengthy period of time. And now I’ll be pleased to respond to your questions.

MODERATOR: Okay, can we have one from Glenn Kessler from the The Washington Post?

QUESTION: Thank you. Senator Mitchell, public rhetoric going into the talks, especially by the Palestinians, was strong saying that continuing with settlements would wreck the negotiations. Yet Secretary Clinton held out the possibility yesterday that both sides could take other steps that would allow the talks to continue, such as an agreement on an agenda. Can you say whether you made any progress on that front, and if so, what?

MR. MITCHELL: Our position on settlements is well known and remains unchanged. This Administration’s policy is the same as the policy of previous administrations, Democratic and Republican. As President Obama said just recently, we think it makes sense to extend the moratorium; especially given that the talks are moving in a constructive direction. We know that this is a politically sensitive issue in Israel. And we have also called on President Abbas to take steps that help encourage and facilitate this process. We believe that both sides have a responsibility to help ensure that these talks continue in a constructive manner. We’ve always made clear that the parties should promote a positive environment for the talks. And as the Secretary has said on many occasions, as we move forward, it’s important that actions by all sides help to advance our efforts, not to hinder them.

MODERATOR: Could we have --

QUESTION: Did you make progress? Is the answer yes or no?

MR. MITCHELL: We continue our efforts to make progress, and we believe that we are moving in the right direction overall.

MODERATOR: Mr. Ahmed Naguib from Egyptian TV, our Egyptian hosts.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

INTERPRETER: (Off-mike.)

MR. MITCHELL: We have said many times that our vision is for a two-state solution that includes a Jewish, democratic state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with a viable, independent, sovereign, and contiguous state of Palestine. But of course, this is one of many sensitive issues that the parties will need to resolve themselves, and that is the point of negotiations. The parties will reach agreement on all major issues.

MODERATOR: Okay. We now have Ayala Hasson from Israeli TV Channel 1.

QUESTION: Thank you. Senator Mitchell, so you do not agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel should continue the building after the moratorium as it was when Prime Minister Olmert was in office? And can you be more specific about the core issues that were on the table? Thank you.

MR. MITCHELL: I’ve stated our position on the settlement issue and that remains our position as stated in response to the first question. With respect to the core issues, I’m not going to attempt to identify each one that was discussed, but several were, in a very serious, detailed, and extensive discussion.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

INTERPRETER: (Off-mike.)

MR. MITCHELL: I’ve already responded to that question. The – all issues ultimately must be resolved by the parties themselves. The United States will, as we have said on many occasions, be an active and sustained partner throughout the talks and will, when necessary and appropriate, make bridging proposals and provide encouragement to the parties, but in the end that these matters must be resolved by the parties themselves. And we hope and expect that they will do so.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

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