Palestinian and Israeli leaders meet for Obama’s peace talks

Palestinian and Israeli leaders begin direct talks in Washington today in what US President Barack Obama has described as “a moment of opportunity that may not soon come again”.

Obama intends to forge a Middle East peace agreement within a year, approaching the talks between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II with tempered optimism.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported the US President as saying the task would be difficult after so many failed efforts, and that passions and mistrust ran deep. But he said that the occupation and accompanying conflict were unsustainable.

“The purpose of the talks is clear. These will be direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Obama, These negotiations are intended to resolve all final status issues. The goal is a settlement negotiated between the parties that ends the occupation which began in 1967, and results in the emergence of an independent democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish state of Israel and its other neighbours,” he said. “We are under no illusions. Passions run deep. Each side has legitimate and enduring interests. Years of mistrust will not disappear overnight …

“After all, there’s a reason that the two state solution has eluded previous generations. This is extraordinarily complex and extraordinarily difficult. But we know that the status quo is unsustainable.”

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Parties conduct peace talks behind closed doors

The opposition joint coalition and the government yesterday decided not to disclose any information to the media regarding the second round of peace talks, in an effort to calm tensions “and give the talks the best chance of succeeding”, according to one member.

A Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP said that during yesterday’s meeting all the parties had agreed not to reveal any details of the ongoing discussions.

“We will issue a joint statement. Now the administrative work of the statement is on going,” he said. A third meeting is scheduled for Saturday.

Chairperson of MDP and MP Mariya Didi, who is also representing the government in the peace talks, said it was “in the best interests of the country” to conduct the meetings behind closed doors.

Spokesperson for the MDP Ahmed Haleem said he would not wish to comment on the peace talks.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs Ahmed Nihan, Deputy leader Umar Naseer and Peoples Alliance leader Abdulla Yamin did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

Meanwhile, President Nasheed welcomed the ongoing all-party talks, which aim to break the present political deadlock in the country between the executive and legislature.

“I very much welcome the discussions and I am optimistic that the parties will reach a productive outcome,” the President said in a statement.“There are people in all parties who are rational, reasonable and respectable and who would like this country to succeed.”

“I believe it is time for the voices of reason and compromise to step forward and leave behind those who hanker for a return to the authoritarian past,” he added.

The relative ceasefire of angry rhetoric between the parties will likely lead to a focus on the judicial reform process, with crowds gathering today outside the  Judicial Service Commission (JSC) demanding action be taken against corrupt judges.

Haleem said the crowd did not only consist of MDP supporters, “but normal people who belong to different political parties”.

“The judges are working against the spirit of the constitution,” he alleged. “They can’t say, ‘We are taking an oath and this is for 70 years’. If that is the case, the president can also take an oath for lifetime.”