"I don't know why I or anyone else in the U.S. government should deny ourselves the opportunity to hear from others and who have ideas with respect to peace," Powell said at a news conference during a visit to Tunisia. But he added that the meeting "in no way undercuts our strong support" for Israel and the road map.
Israel's government has denounced the unofficial accord, which calls, among other things, for the creation of a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and shared control of Jerusalem. Israel's vice premier warned it would be a mistake for Secretary of State Colin Powell to meet organizers of an informal Mideast peace treaty. But Powell said Tuesday that just such a meeting is planned this week. Top Israeli officials have rejected Monday's "Geneva accord" designed by former Israeli and Palestinian leaders as failing to advance the overall peace process. The Palestinian response has been mixed.
The informal agreement was the result of three years of talks between former Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, working in private capacities without representing their governments.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon described the agreement as subversive, and other Israeli opponents said it would simply serve as the starting point for the next round of negotiations, undermining government policy.
The agreement proposes borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state close to Israel's borders before the 1967 Mideast war, giving the Palestinians almost all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and part of Jerusalem.
It calls for the removal of most Israeli settlements there and severely limits the so-called "right of return" for Palestinians who fled or were driven out during the 1948-49 war that followed Israel's creation and their descendants. It also divides sovereignty in Jerusalem.Posted by tstubbs at December 02, 2003 06:34 PM