(AFP) – Oct 18, 2007
LONDON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that she had been "encouraged" by talks during her tour of the Middle East despite "tensions" between Israelis and Palestinians.
"The teams are serious, the people are serious, the issues are serious," she told reporters.
"And so I am not surprised that there are some tensions, I am not surprised that there is some ups and downs.
"It is the character of this kind of endeavour, but I am encouraged by what I heard."
Rice was speaking as she flew from Tel Aviv to London, where she is due to conclude a nine-day tour which has also taken her to Moscow, Jerusalem and Cairo.
She is expected to ask King Abdullah II of Jordan to express his support for the international meeting which the US is mooting in November to launch formal peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
According to a senior State Department official, the US will keep up the pressure on all parties ahead of that meeting, due to take place in Annapolis in the state of Maryland, near Washington.
National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley is to visit Jerusalem next week to try to bring the two sides closer together, and Rice herself will be back in the region at the end of the month for a meeting of Iraq's neighbours in Istanbul.
But Rice also indicated that the parties involved had not yet started to compose the joint document which would be the basis of formal negotiations.
"I don't really know when they will write everything down," she said.
"They want to have discussions first between the delegations."
She also tried to play down expectations over the document's contents, which the Palestinians would like to be detailed while the Israelis want to keep it vague.
"While the document is important as a signal of intent, I think that the idea that somehow it is going to have to be... very specific on each of the issues, that is not what they are looking for," she said.
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