US plans peace talks with Israelis, Palestinians
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to host peace talks in Washington with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on July 30, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Thursday.
Rice met a Palestinian delegation in Washington on Wednesday and offered to host the three-way meeting between herself, chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurie and his Israeli partner, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Erekat said.
The top US diplomat is mediating efforts to reach a peace agreement this year between the Palestinians and the Israelis, in the waning months of Bush administration, which ends in January 2009.
Erekat said efforts were also under way for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert next week, but he had no further details.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to confirm the July 30 date for three-way talks but he said Rice would continue to work hard on Palestinian statehood negotiations and this included such meetings.
"Trilateral meetings, she's going to, I'm sure -- in the coming weeks and months -- she's going to have more of them," said McCormack.
The White House also said it could not provide details. "There's nothing to report right now," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
Israeli officials had no immediate comment on such a meeting but Rice has met the negotiators from both sides on several occasions to try and move the talks forward.
The United States revived Palestinian statehood negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, last November, with the hope of completing a deal by the time President George W. Bush leaves office.
But disputes over Jewish settlement expansion on occupied West Bank land, a corruption scandal involving Olmert and Abbas' own political troubles and security issues have all undercut US efforts to reach a statehood deal so far.