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Middle east

Peace talks making progress on ‘tough issues’, says Mitchell

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-15

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have agreed to continue negotiations next week, US peace envoy George Mitchell said in an upbeat announcement on Wednesday.

REUTERS - The United States said on Wednesday it believed Israel and the Palestinians were making progress on resolving a dispute over settlement building that is threatening to sink newly-launched peace talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to his official residence, shaking his hand as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looked on approvingly, a day after they met in Egypt.
After the two-hour session, U.S. envoy George Mitchell sounded an upbeat note the negotiations would continue despite the pending expiry of Israel's partial moratorium on construction in settlements in the occupied West Bank.
"That subject was discussed this evening, we continue in our efforts to make progress in that regard and believe that we are doing so," Mitchell said.
Palestinians say they will quit the negotiations if building resumes in the settlements, built on land they want for a state and which they fear would deny them a viable and contiguous country. The limited freeze is due to end on Sept. 30.
"I will say that the two leaders are not leaving the tough issues to the end of their discussions ... We take this as a strong indicator of their belief that peace is possible," Mitchell said.
It was Abbas's first visit to the official residence in Jerusalem of Israel's prime minister since the right-wing Netanyahu took office 18 months ago. He had held talks there before with Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert.
"Today I returned to this house after a long period of absence in order to continue the talks and the negotiations, in hope of arriving at an eternal peace in all the region, and especially peace between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people," he wrote in the visitors' book.
The right-wing Netanyahu, who greeted Abbas against a backdrop that included a Palestinian flag, described the negotiations to end a decades-long conflict as "a lot of work".
Washington has set a one-year target for resolving major issues dividing the two sides in a Palestinian drive for a state. Mitchell said Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams were due to meet next week and would set a new date for leaders to convene.
The settlements are on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and are deemed by the World Court to be illegal under international law, a finding disputed by Israel.


Date created : 2010-09-15