US Mideast envoy George Mitchell (photo) delayed a visit to Israel amid a diplomatic row between the allies over new settlements in east Jerusalem. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Tuesday for "full commitment" to peace talks from all sides.
AFP - The United States said Tuesday that US envoy George Mitchell will not meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials before the Middle East quartet meets in Moscow on Thursday.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters that Mitchell had delayed meetings originally set for Monday to give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu time to respond to US concerns about settlements.
But he said "logistics" now barred the US envoy from traveling to Jerusalem before the talks in Moscow, sidestepping the issue of whether Mitchell refused to go to the Middle East until Netanyahu gave his response to Washington.
He nonetheless said he anticipated a conversation "very soon" between Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who last week asked the Israeli leader for a response on US concerns about Israeli settlement plans.
A US official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that the conversation could come Wednesday.
Mitchell "will not have meetings with the parties prior to Moscow," Crowley told reporters.
He cited the problem of "logistics" and the "tyranny of the schedule" which would deny Mitchell time for "meaningful talks" before the quartet -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- meets in Moscow.
The quartet launched the so-called road map for Middle East peace in 2003, which calls for a Palestinian state living alongside a secure Israel.
When asked why it was wrong to conclude that Mitchell is avoiding travel to the region until Israel gives its response, Crowley replied: "At this point it is logistics. Were it not for the Moscow meeting ... we might be able to tell you when the meetings would take place."
The postponement comes amid a growing diplomatic crisis that erupted last week when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in annexed Arab east Jerusalem during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden.
It also coincides with an eruption of unrest across east Jerusalem over Israel's settlement plans and the reopening of a 17th century synagogue near the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Date created : 2010-03-16