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EU envoy: PM`s remarks on pullback to be point of reference
The Jerusalem Post
8 Oct 2008

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert`s comments about Israel needing to make a nearly complete withdrawal to the pre-1967-lines will certainly be a reference point in the future, although Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have insisted they are not binding, EU envoy Marc Otte told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Otte`s comments came after a press briefing in which he termed Olmert`s comments, made in a pre-Rosh Hashana interview, `courageous,` and said he was not surprised by them.

`Everyone who has been engaged in the negotiations is bound to come to that sort of conclusion,` Otte said, adding that - as Olmert did in the interview - it is not easy for anyone to say that the positions he held before were wrong.

`I am encouraged that the Israeli leadership is willing to face the challenges,` Otte said.

Olmert, in the interview last week with Yediot Aharonot, said that for a peace deal Israel would have to withdraw from nearly all of the Golan Heights, east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

On Sunday, Livni told French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that she did not feel bound by Olmert`s words.

Otte denied reports that the Palestinians had rejected Olmert`s offer, saying there had never been a formal offer.

`I don`t think you make offers through the press, but do it in negotiations and present a paper,` he said.

Otte said he didn`t know whether the ideas articulated in the interview had even been discussed in the negotiations.

Meanwhile, the European Union`s ambassador to Israel, Ramiro CibriŠn-Uzal, said that while there had been positive movement over the last few months, he would not say that the sides were close to a deal.

CibriŠn-Uzal said that while the talks were being held in confidence, `I am not sure the gaps are narrow.`

Otte termed a `positive development` a decision by the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to brief the Quartet together on where they stand in the negotiations at its next meeting, expected in November.

The Quartet is made up of the US, EU, Russia and the UN.

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