Biden leads peace talks with Israel, but critics round on Obama; Iraq election turnout figures released; Euro credit warnings see currencies slide; Secret US-Japan pacts revealed; and more
Top of the Agenda: Biden Opens Talks with Israel
US Vice President Joseph Biden commenced talks with Israeli leaders (NYT) as part of a US effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Biden called American ties to Israel "unshakeable" during a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres. He is expected to meet Palestinian and Jordanian leaders and give a speech at Tel Aviv University emphasizing American solidarity with Israel. The peace talks will be the first in over a year but have not garnered much enthusiasm among Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports two states but wants the Palestinian side demilitarized and an accepted Israeli military presence on its future eastern border.
US Special Envoy George Mitchell's announcement Monday that Israelis and Palestinians had agreed only to indirect talks provoked criticism that the peace process has regressed (WashPost) under Obama administration. The Palestinians' chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Israel's Army Radio that this was likely the last chance to achieve two states.
A Washington Post editorial says the Obama administration must aim for a quick transition to direct negotiations and should avoid raising expectations about what they can accomplish.
In the Jerusalem Post, Gershon Baskin says although proximity talks reflect a retreat in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, they could be the best way to reach an agreement.
In this interview, CFR's Elliott Abrams says progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come through development and building a legal system in the West Bank, not negotiations when the conditions aren't ripe.
PACIFIC RIM: China Voices Support for US Treasuries
Yi Gang, head of China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange, expressed renewed commitment to US Treasuries (Reuters) and said China would be wary of boosting its gold holdings.
Japan: A Japanese government-appointed panel confirmed the existence of once-secret Cold War-era pacts (AP) between Japan and the United States on nuclear arms, amid a strained US-Japan security alliance.