Jerusalem: Israel`s defence minister has
claimed that the WikiLeaks crisis was distracting Washington
from efforts to restart Mideast peace talks.
But the US denied those efforts were on hold and
countered sharply that perhaps Israel was distracted by
fighting a wildfire.
Ehud Barak told a parliamentary committee yesterday that
talks with the American side have been postponed because
Washington was busy dealing with the fallout from secret US
diplomatic documents released on the WikiLeaks website, as
well as with tensions between North and South Korea.
"For now the matter has been stopped entirely, because of
the Americans` lack of attention and concentration," Barak
In Washington, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley
denied that the US was holding up the talks.
"The process has not stopped," he told reporters. "Our
efforts are not suspended."
He pointedly said that perhaps it was Israel that was
preoccupied with putting out a huge forest fire that burned
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks restarted in September
after a long hiatus but stumbled to a halt three weeks later
after an Israeli moratorium on new construction in West Bank
Jewish settlements expired and the government refused to renew
Palestinians say they won`t resume talks unless Israel
halts all building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem _ lands
they want for part of their future state.
The US had been pressing Israel to renew the moratorium
in exchange for security and diplomatic assurances. However
yesterday, US officials said they had abandoned efforts to
reinstate the building freeze, concluding that was not the
best way to restart the talks.