US-sponsored Mideast peace talks facing failure?

(By Deutsche Welle) US Secretary of State John Kerry has forged a tentative agreement between Israelis and Palestinians on renewed peace talks. But the two sides still face fundamental disagreements about the preconditions for negotiations.

Three years after US President Barack Obama’s failed foray into the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his secretary of state returned to Washington over the weekend with an apparent pledge by the two sides to restart negotiations aimed at a peace accord.

“I’m pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters last Friday in Jordan’s capital, Amman.

But both the Israelis and Palestinians have remained mum over the details of the prospective talks, delegating the public relations job to Kerry. And the US secretary of state has told the press only that the two sides have agreed to sit down with each other at the negotiating table.

The chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators – Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat – would begin preliminary talks in Washington “within the next week or so,” according to Kerry.

“Neither side wants to be blamed for a collapse of Kerry’s efforts, and both sides are in fact nervous that without some process the situation will deteriorate and produce a worse outcome,” Aaron Miller, a vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Center and a former advisor to Democrat and Republican secretaries of state, told DW.

“The question that remains to be seen is whether or not both Netanyahu and Abbas have made private commitments to Kerry on the parameters that guide the negotiations,” Miller said.

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Syrian uprising challenges Assad regime’s regional ties

(By Deutsche Welle) Syria’s violent crackdown on protesters has placed Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran in a tough spot as they try to reconcile their political ties to the Assad regime with their professed support for the Arab uprisings.

As President Bashar al-Assad’s regime faces growing isolation both domestically and on the world stage due to its six-month-long violent crackdown on opposition protesters, the increasingly real prospect of regime change in Syria has sent political tremors throughout the region.

The Assad regime claims the leadership mantle of the so-called resistance bloc in the Middle East (informal group including Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran – the ed.), a movement that opposes Israel and American influence in the region.

But the Syrian government’s violent crackdown, which has taken the lives of an estimated 2,700 people according to the UN, has begun to undermine the regime’s resistance credentials and could tarnish the reputation of its Islamist allies, threatening to permanently de-legitimize and weaken the current key players within the resistance camp.

“The whole raison d’ĂȘtre of the state is based on the whole slogan of resistance and we are facing Israel,” Khaled Hroub, an expert on Arab politics at the University of Cambridge, told Deutsche Welle.

“The rhetoric, the discourse is the backbone of the whole regime in the country, if you take this out nothing is left for the regime to promote itself, to justify its existence.”

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