State Dept. voices support for peace talks as negotiators postpone meeting

(JTA) — Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators postponed a scheduled meeting, as the U.S. State Department reiterated its support for the talks.

The negotiators had been set to meet again on Wednesday evening, though it was unclear if U.S. envoy to the peace negotiations, Martin Indyk, would be present, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Tuesday during a briefing. Indyk returned to Washington last week for consultations, but had been scheduled to return this week to Israel.

It was announced on Wednesday afternoon that the meeting would be postponed. A Palestinian official told the French news agency AFP that the meeting was postponed until Thursday to allow Indyk to return to the region; an Israeli official said it was due to the murder of an Israeli man by a Palestinian gunman near Hebron on Sunday evening.

Psaki said that, despite a New York Times editorial which called on the United States “to lay down the principles it believes must undergird a two-state solution, should Israelis and Palestinians ever decide to make peace” and  “move on” to other world issues,  the State Department was behind the continuation of the talks “because the Israeli and the Palestinian people deserve a two-state solution where parties are living side-by-side and they have the economic opportunity and the security that they deserve.”

She said the two sides were working on an agreement to continue negotiations past the original April 29 deadline set for the end of the talks.

“There are steps that both parties would need to take in order to improve the conditions for peace. But the parties remain highly engaged. Both parties tell us they want negotiations to continue and they’re searching for a path to do just that,” Psaki told reporters.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority broke down following Israel’s failure to meet its pledge in a prisoner release, followed by the Palestinian Authority applying to join 15 international conventions in an apparent violation of the agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to resume negotiations. In response, Israel late last week said it would freeze the transfer of taxes it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf.

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