Obama's Middle East plan to be launched within 'weeks'

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Jerusalem, Aug. 4 (ANI): Although both Israel and Arab countries have refused to budge from their stands over the settlement issue, the Obama administration is positive that all pieces will fall in place by the time it formally launches its Middle East peace plan 'in a matter of weeks'.Washington is still negotiating with Jerusalem over a complete freeze on Israeli settlements in exchange for Palestinian security reforms and Arab gestures towards Israel.

With those in place, the US plans to announce both those steps and a resumption of Israel-Arab peace talks, likely at an international conference, the Jerusalem Post quoted a senior US State Department official, as saying.

Although no final decision had been made about the format, a simultaneous release of press announcements in various capitals or other mechanisms might be used, he added.

When asked about the timeframe of the efforts being led by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell at a press briefing Monday, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Monday it would be "a matter of weeks."

Crowley said he was referring to "completing the current phase of the process," which has consisted of Mitchell consulting with officials from the various countries in the region on the steps they would be taking at the US's behest.

Arab leaders, however, have not appeared to be in line with what the US and Israel would like to see in exchange for a settlement freeze.

During his meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh voiced reservations about confidence-building measures, arguing that "there has been in the past an over-investment, perhaps, by the parties in pursuing confidence-building measures, conflict-management techniques, including transitional arrangements, and an overemphasis on gestures, perhaps at the expense of reaching the actual end game."

Recently, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal had poured cold water on the idea of confidence-building steps, pointing to divisions among Arab countries.

The Kuwaiti emir was more reticent, saying after his meeting with Obama, "It is in our interest that peace be brought about, and the indicator is that the recent Arab peace initiative that was agreed upon by all of the Arab parties and states, and we would implement this peace initiative when Israel implements and fulfills its obligations." (ANI)

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