U.S. says little accomplished in Powell, Peres talks
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A meeting Wednesday between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to discuss the Egyptian-Jordanian peace initiative ended with little advancement, a State Department official said.
"We're stuck in a very difficult situation," said one senior administration official. "It won't be easy to get out of it."
The purpose of the Peres visit to Washington is to provide Israeli reaction to a Jordanian-Egyptian peace initiative, which is designed to bring an end to the past seven months of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
"Israel is determined to bring an end to the violence and bring a beginning to peace," Peres said before going into the meeting ."Actually, we'd like to end violence as soon as possible because we're interested to start the negotiation at the earliest possible date."
Powell stressed that the fighting needs to stop before meaningful talks could start.
Peres said the best way to end the violence is for the United States to take a tough stand against terrorism, and reiterated Israel's intention to permit thousands of Palestinians to return to work in Israel and to re-open checkpoints between Palestinian territories and Jordan and Egypt.
But Powell's attempt to win a further Israeli commitment to freeze all new and existing settlement activity fell on deaf ears.
"It is the beginning of a dialogue, but of course, that dialogue cannot get under way until violence is brought down, brought significantly down," Powell said. "The United States continues to deplore violence and terrorist action in every manner that we see it, and I just wanted the foreign minister to know of our continued engagement."
Prior to arriving in Washington, Peres stopped in Jordan and Egypt to discuss the plan. The Israeli government has not rejected the proposal outright, but it also has said that it believes the initiative is too one-sided and doesn't spell out specific steps Palestinians need to take.
Israeli officials told CNN that during Wednesday's meeting with Powell, Peres plans to present some Israeli ideas as to how to make the plan more palatable to Israel. Those ideas include a commitment by Israel to move ahead with the third phase of moving Israeli troops out of Palestinian territories, a step Israel had promised to take under the 1991 Oslo peace agreement.
In addition, Israeli officials said Peres will urge the Bush administration to get more involved in helping both sides achieve a cease-fire. However, these officials stressed that Israel does not need the United States to take as active a role in promoting peace talks, if and when they resume.
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