Hope for all-party return to Mid-East talks: US mediators see signs of progress along the road to peace, albeit 'millimetre by millimetre'

THE United States and Russia are awaiting responses from Israel and the Arab parties to their invitation to the next round of the Middle East peace negotiations starting in Washington on 30 August.

The Arab states - Syria, Jordan and Lebanon - and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) are due to meet this month to co-ordinate their reply. 'I think they'll all return - all of the parties,' Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, said in an interview on Cable News Network. 'The whole purpose of this process is to try to get to a more normal situation where they (the parties) can have normal relationships with each other,' Mr Christopher said.

State department officials held out little hope of a breakthrough at the talks. One spoke of grinding out progress 'millimetre by millimetre'.

If all the parties agree to attend, it will be a triumph for the diplomatic shuffle of Mr Christopher two weeks ago. When he planned his trip to the Middle East, he had hoped to discuss setting a date for the 11th round of peace talks. In the event, he had to cope with the fall-out from Israel's seven-day Operation Accountability in Lebanon. It has become increasingly clear, however, that Israel's action has done nothing to derail the peace talks. On the contrary, the deployment of the Lebanese army to the south, from where fighters of the Iranian-backed Hizbollah militia have mounted attacks on Israeli targets, may signal the beginnings of a more assertive Lebanese government presence in the south.

Meanwhile Israel yesterday paved the way for the first official Israeli- PLO contacts, by saying that Israeli officials would be able to hold talks with the Palestinian peace team from the occupied territories, which this week was publicly declared part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

'They are residents of the occupied territories - that is what we demand. They can call themselves by this name or that - it makes no difference,' commented one official.

However, the move breaks the taboo preventing official contacts with what in Israel is still a proscribed organisation. It follows increasing recognition in the Israeli government that it is time to talk to the real Palestinian leadership in the PLO if progress in the peace talks is to be achieved.

Benyamin Ben Eliezer, an Israeli cabinet minister, confidant of the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and known by the Arab name 'Fuad' for his supposed pro-Arab feelings, acknowledged as much yesterday. 'Whether we like it or not the fact is that when we are talking to Faisal Husseini we are negotiating with a representative of the PLO - who is, was, and will continue to be a representative of the PLO,' he said.

Until now, Israel has refused to talk to the PLO, not so much because it regards it as a terrorist organisation but because it represents the entire Palestinian people, including those who left or were forced to leave what is now Israel, and not just the occupants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Right-wingers wrung their hands at the news. Yossi Ben-Aharon, an adviser to the last government, said: 'To say what happened now in Tunis (PLO headquarters) has no importance and doesn't change a thing is simply . . . fraud.' He said once the PLO entered negotiations it would demand a homeland not only for the 2 million Palestinians in the occupied territories but also others - 'from Cincinnati to the Persian Gulf'.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?