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US welcomes unofficial peace initiatives

2nd December 2003

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US Middle East envoy William Burns here yesterday welcomed the unofficial initiatives launched by Israeli and Palestinian groups for a final peace settlement but without actually endorsing them.

"The US has made very clear that we think that there are useful contributions that a number of these groups have made, positive contributions to the debate, about what final status options might look like," Burns said in Cairo after talks with Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa.

Burns was in Egypt on a tour of the region aimed at kick-starting the stalled US-backed roadmap peace plan, the same day as Israeli opposition members and prominent Palestinians announced a more detailed initiative in Geneva.

The US State Department said US Secretary of State Colin Powell did not rule out meeting in Washington with Israelis and Palestinians who drafted the Geneva Initiative, despite Israeli government opposition to the plan.

In Jerusalem earlier yesterday, Burns also met Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh, who has promoted another unofficial plan, the "Voice of the People," with Ami Ayalon, a former chief of Israel's Shin Beth security service.

"We believe that these (initiatives) are important reminders that Palestinians and Israelis can talk to one another and that there is something to talk about," Burns said during his visit to Egypt.

"The US does not endorse any of these particular unofficial initiatives," he said.

"Most of all they are a reminder of the importance of getting started ... on the basis of the roadmap and recreating a sense of hope between Palestinians and Israelis," he said.

During his talks with Mussa, Burns said he "stressed President (George W) Bush's commitment to try to do everything the US can to revive hope for progress between Palestinians and Israelis on the basis of the roadmap".

The roadmap calls for measures, which both sides can take to stop more than three years of violence and revive negotiations toward the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005 that lives in peace alongside Israel.

The unofficial initiatives propose specific ways to share sovereignty in the holy city of Jerusalem and the scope of the boundaries of a Palestinian state, details not mentioned by the roadmap.

Burns, who was due to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak today, also discussed the US-led occupation of Iraq with Mussa.

"We also had an opportunity to talk about our commitment to help Iraqis regain control over their own affairs as quickly as possible," he said. – Sapa-AFP.
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