State Department: Talks Continue, but No Progress
Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials held fresh U.S.-mediated talks Thursday, but progress has yet to be made, the State Department said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed a new round of talks but downplayed reports of a deal in the works.
"The gaps are narrowing, but any speculation about an agreement are premature at this time," said Psaki, according to AFP.
Washington remains in "intensive negotiations" with both sides, she told reporters.
"We're working, as you know, to determine what the path forward is for these negotiations, and that is up to the parties," said Psaki.
American envoy Martin Indyk presided over Thursday's meeting in Jerusalem between Israel's chief negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and her PA counterpart, Saeb Erakat, said a PA source close to the talks.
Also present were the PA’s intelligence chief Majed Farah and Yitzchak Molcho, a confidant of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, reported AFP.
Earlier Thursday, it was reported that a deal freeing Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israeli-held Arab terrorist convicts and an extension of peace talks will be carried out in the coming days.
The deal was reported on Channel 2 and Channel 10. Al Arabiya also reported that the deal was about to be finalized. A U.S. official later denied the reports.
Psaki also denied that such a deal was made, saying that "no decision has been made about Jonathan Pollard.”
She revealed meanwhile that Indyk would return to Washington this week for consultations with Kerry and the White House. He would then go back to the region some time next week.
Also on Thursday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon signed official documents, confirming reception of and starting processing for PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's requests to join international conventions that are also signed by the UN. Ten of the 15 conventions the PA wishes to join are co-signed by the UN.
Abbas's requests, submitted last Tuesday, are in breach of the conditions for peace talks between Israel and the PA. The requests have effectively brought the talks to a dead end, even more so than his adamant refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
Hours after Ban signed the documents, an Israeli official said that Israel has enacted an additional sanction against the PA, by freezing the transfer of taxes Israel collects for the PA.
Further, the official noted that Israel is suspending participation with the PA to develop a gas field in the sea off of Hamas-controlled Gaza, and putting a cap on PA deposits in Israeli banks.