Netanyahu, Mitchell discuss ways to resume Mideast peace talks

20:00, January 22, 2010      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met late Thursday evening with visiting U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell discussing ways to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, local news service Ynet reported Friday.

The meeting lasted for two-and-a-half hours, said the report, adding that Netanyahu's office said the two are slated to hold more meeting in the next few days.

However, the report gave no further details about Thursday's meeting between Netanyahu and Mitchell, who arrived in Israel on Wednesday in an effort to help restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been suspended since December 2008.

Meanwhile, local daily The Jerusalem Post reported Friday that a senior Israeli official tried to lower any expectations that Mitchell's current regional trip would lead to any dramatic progress, saying that it was not clear whether the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) had made the strategic decision to re- enter the peace talks.

According to the official, Netanyahu had no intention of giving Mitchell, who is scheduled to meet PNA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Friday, any more gestures to take to the Palestinians, saying that the Palestinians have climbed up a "eucalyptus tree," and every time a gesture is given as a ladder, they climb even higher.

Earlier Thursday, Mitchell met Israeli President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and opposition head Tzipi Livni.

Barak met Mitchell in Tel Aviv, discussing the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. According to a statement from the Defense Ministry, the two-hour meeting focused on steps needed to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Under pressure from the Obama administration, Netanyahu announced in November a limited, 10-month moratorium on new housing in the West Bank settlements, saying that he hoped the move would help restart negotiations.

However, he stressed that the construction limits will not be implemented in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem.

Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967 and later annexed, are considered by the international community as Israeli settlements and one of the main obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Israel deems Jerusalem as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the east section of the holy city as capital of their future state.

The Palestinians have vowed that they will not return to the negotiating table unless Israel totally freezes its construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as well as in East Jerusalem.

Source: Xinhua
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