WASHINGTON (Aug. 12)
The United States and Russia have invited Israel and its Arab negotiating partners to return here at the end of the month for another round of bilateral talks in the slow-moving Middle East peace process.
State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said Thursday that the United States had invited the parties “probably within the last 24 hours” to resume their talks here at the end of August.
But the parties are still consulting on dates and timetables with the United States and Russia, the co-sponsors of the peace process, and no official date has yet been set, McCurry said.
Middle East experts have been saying that the talks must achieve meaningful progress quickly if the peace process is to hold together.
But Secretary of State Warren Christopher does not seem to hold out much hope for an immediate breakthrough in the talks.
When asked during an interview Wednesday on the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour television program if he saw any light at the end of the Middle East tunnel, the secretary responded, “I see a dim light. It’s way out there, and I think we ought to pursue it very hard.”
At the State Department, spokesman McCurry said Christopher was trying to make progress “inch by inch” on issues where “progress comes painstakingly.”
News that the parties were likely to return in several weeks for another set of bilateral talks demonstrated that Christopher had succeeded during his recent trip to the region in injecting some momentum into the process.
The recent fighting in southern Lebanon between Israel and pro-Iranian Hezbollah groups, combined with the disarray among Palestinian leaders, focused attention away from the peace process, making Christopher’s task more difficult.
But with the fighting halted and the Palestinians reaching an accord among themselves, the way seems clear toward a quick resumption of talks Israel has been holding separately with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians.