U.S. Mideast envoy to visit soon: Palestinian official

20:05, April 22, 2010      

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U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell will arrive in the region "in the coming hours" in a new attempt to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Thursday.

Mitchell's deputy David Hale met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman Thursday and handed him a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama, which "included the time of Mitchell's visit that would be in the coming hours," Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio.

"The Palestinian leadership is awaiting Mitchell to see the Israeli response he carries," Erekat said, referring to the Palestinian demands submitted through Washington to Israel to stop building new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and expanding the existing blocs in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Israeli local news service Ynet reported that Mitchell will arrive in the region on Thursday to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Mitchell's unexpected visit is a result of progress in a Wednesday meeting between a team of American officials and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's aides, according to the report.

The peace negotiations, stalled since December 2008, were about to resume after the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) approved a U.S. offer of proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Mitchell also announced last month both Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to hold U.S.-brokered proximity peace talks.

However, the talks was thrown into grave doubt, almost immediately after the announcement of Israeli government's approval of a 1,600 housing project in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians said they will not enter any talks unless Israel completely stops settlement activities in East Jerusalem, which has long been seen by Palestinians as the capital of their future statehood.

Meanwhile, U.S. Obama administration, whose peace efforts were embarrassed by Israeli government's moves on settlement, has made repeated requests that Israel reverse the building plan and freeze all construction in the controversial part of the holy city.

Source: Xinhua


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