PLO leader: U.S. envoy has not participated in peace talks

JERUSALEM (JTA) — American negotiators have not participated in the renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a Palestinian leader said.

“The Americans did not participate in any negotiating session so far in spite of assurances that they will play a direct role,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Thursday. Rabbo made his statements to the Voice of Palestine radio, the WAFA Palestinian news agency reported.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met twice in the past two weeks in Jerusalem. The negotiations have been under a near-total news blackout at the request of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

U.S. Mideast peace envoy Martin Indyk, who was appointed to the post by Kerry last month, was in Jerusalem this week during the talks but reportedly did not attend the sessions.

Rabbo blamed Israel for the absence of Indyk, saying “this is one sign of how and where the talks are heading if the U.S. is not able now to assert itself in the peace process.”

Rabbo also said that Israel’s continued construction in the settlements could damage the peace process, echoing remarks made the previous day by PLO official Hanan Ashrawi during a tour with reporters of eastern Jerusalem.

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