Washington talks end without agreement on
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[March 24, 2017]
By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump
administration reiterated its concerns about Israeli settlement
activity, the two sides said on Thursday, as a round of talks ended
without agreement over limiting future construction on land the
Palestinians want for a state.
The four days of high-level meetings in Washington marked the latest
step by President Donald Trump’s aides aimed at opening the way to
renewed peace diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians, despite
deep skepticism in the United States and Middle East over the chances
Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who recently returned from
a visit to the region, led the U.S. delegation in what were described as
“intensive discussions” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s
chief of staff Yoav Horowitz and foreign policy adviser Jonathan
Despite setting a more positive tone toward Israel than his predecessor
Barack Obama, Trump urged Netanyahu during a White House visit last
month to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.” The two then
agreed that their aides would seek an accommodation on how much Israel
can build and where.
“The United States delegation reiterated President Trump’s concerns
regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace
agreement,” according to a joint statement released by the White House.
“The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is
to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes those
concerns into consideration," it said. "The talks were serious and
constructive, and they are ongoing."
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since
2014 and settlements are one of the most heated issues. Palestinians
want the West Bank and East Jerusalem for their own state, along with
the Gaza Strip.
Most countries consider Israeli settlements, built on land captured in
the 1967 Middle East war, to be illegal. Israel disagrees, citing
historical and political links to the land, as well as security
[to top of second column]
Jason Greenblatt (L), U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East
envoy meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime
Minister’s Office in Jerusalem March 13, 2017. Courtesy Matty
Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv/Handout via REUTERS
Trump has expressed some ambivalence about a two-state solution, the
mainstay of U.S. policy for the past two decades. But he recently
invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to visit.
Trump has not publicly detailed what kind of agreement he wants with
Israel on settlements. But many supporters of a two-state solution
have urged a formula that restricts construction to the large
settlement blocs that Israel is expected to retain under any final
In the talks, officials discussed measures for improving the climate
for peace, according to the joint readout. It said a key focus was
on steps that “could have a meaningful impact on the economic
environment in the West Bank and Gaza," and specifically a desire to
advance efforts toward “self-sustainability” in electricity and
(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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