September 20, 2009 in Nation/World

Obama to meet with Middle East leaders

Abbas, Netanyahu coming to New York
Christi Parsons Tribune newspapers
Associated Press photo

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the press in Cairo, Egypt, on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Palestinian and Israeli leaders will sit down with President Barack Obama on Tuesday while in New York for a meeting of the United Nations, a three-way meeting that the administration has been trying to broker for weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have agreed to a three-way meeting with the U.S. president, Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs announced Saturday in a written statement. Each leader will also meet separately with Obama, according to the bulletin.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the scheduling of the meetings portended a full-scale resumption of Middle East peace negotiations.

White House officials had avoided publicly laying out specific requirements for their participation in a trilateral meeting. But in recent days, National Security Council sources have said they didn’t want a “meeting for meeting’s sake,” and instead would insist on entering talks with some promise of progress.

For the administration to count the meetings as a success, the parties will have to emerge from them with plausible signs that negotiations are moving forward. The written statement from the White House hit an optimistic note that that will happen.

“These meetings will continue the efforts of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy George Mitchell to lay the groundwork for the relaunch of negotiations, and to create a positive context for those negotiations so that they can succeed,” Gibbs wrote.

Saturday’s announcement follows weeks of talks among the Palestinian and Israeli leaders with Mitchell, Obama’s special Middle East envoy dispatched to get negotiations going again.

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