Rice, Livni Hail Progress in Peace Process

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JERUSALEM, Israel - In a joint press conference in Herzliya, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni lauded the progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, without citing anything specific.
Rice said the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis conference in November 2007 brought a change in the atmosphere wrought by the second intifada (armed Palestinian uprising) from 2001 to 2004.
Livni said Israel's relationship with America strengthened during the Bush administration.
"I know there are doubts regarding the Annapolis process, but we are realistic enough to understand the reality we are faced with. I'm optimistic enough to believe that reality can be changed," Livni said.
At next week's meeting of the Quartet (United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia) at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Livni and her Palestinian Authority counterpart Ahmed Qureia will report on their progress and plans to follow through on the goals of the November 2007 meeting in Annapolis.
Both Livni and Qureia have maintained strict secrecy on the content of their negotiations, other than they deal with core issues, such as future borders, the fate of Jerusalem and the right of return for so-called Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
On Rice's last visit to the region as secretary of state, she held private, one-on-one talks with outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Livni.
Rice also met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Likud chairman and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu Friday morning before heading to Ramallah for meetings with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Rice and Abbas will hold a joint press conference after their meeting.
Later, Rice will fly to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah.
Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post

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