Lieberman Arrives in Washington for “Decisive” Meeting With Kerry

YERUSHALAYIM -
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.  (Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. (Flash90)

FM Says Prisoner Release No Longer Relevant

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington on Wednesday in a “decisive” phase in Kerry’s current rethink of his role as Mideast mediator, sources in Washington are saying.

An official White House announcement of a time-out or “suspension” of the peace process could follow, Globes quoted the sources as saying.

President Barack Obama will be conferring with Kerry and other senior officials to decide whether to pursue the peace process any further at a time when the administration has its hands full with the Ukrainian crisis and negotiations with Iran. It is not yet known whether Obama will meet Kerry before or after Kerry’s meeting with Lieberman.

Lieberman declared on Tuesday that a planned prisoner release was off the table unless the Palestinians reversed course on their unilateral approach to the United Nations.

“We are in favor of negotiations, but the previous offer about releasing prisoners doesn’t exist anymore,” Lieberman told Army Radio on Tuesday. “Whoever broke the rules has to bear responsibility … therefore the previous offer is not relevant anymore.”

Mohammed Ishtayeh, an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, said on Monday that the letters of accession are irreversible. On the contrary, the Palestinians were ready to broaden their bid if the talks collapse.

In the meantime, the U.S. State Department Jen Psaki gave away little, saying only that “gaps remain but both sides are committed to narrow the gaps.”

An Israeli official told Reuters that “the atmosphere was business-like and the sides agreed to meet again to try to find a solution to the crisis,” after the latest talks wrapped up in the early hours of Tuesday.

The official did not say when the next meeting would be held, and there was no immediate Palestinian comment about any future session.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki said that Arab foreign ministers will convene in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the breakdown in talks and Abbas will ask them for political and financial support in anticipation of Israeli sanctions. Israel might again withhold tax revenues of approximately $100 million a month on goods imported into the Palestinian territories, as provided by interim peace deals.

The Arab League accused Israel on Monday of lacking a “real desire” to reach peace with the Palestinians, but said it believes that progress is still possible.

“We still think that the United States has a role in pushing the peace process forward,” Palestinian media quoted Arab League deputy secretary-general Ahmed Ben Helli as saying in a statement.