Mitchell meets with Israelis as settlement issue looms
The US Mideast envoy called the meeting "good" but didn't say whether he discussed a settlement freeze, which Palestinians have called a prerequisite to peace talks.
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US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell met with Israeli leaders Wednesday as part of his ongoing push to restart stalled peace talks between Israel and Palestinians. Though US officials did not mention if Mr. Mitchell discussed a settlement freeze with the Israeli officials, the special Middle East envoy said it was a "good meeting."
Peace talks were suspended late last year due to a disagreement about the future of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. President Barack Obama and many European leaders have called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt construction of the settlements. So far Israeli officials have refused.
Israeli President Shimon Peres has indicated that Israeli officials are preparing for a busy month of diplomatic activity that will conclude with a meeting between US, Israeli, and Palestinian officials in New York, reports the conservative Jerusalem Post. While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with Netanyahu until he freezes all settlement construction, President Peres has indicated that Obama may orchestrate a meeting between the two by the end of the month.
Palestinian officials, however, say that without a settlement freeze talks between President Abbas and Netanyahu are unlikely. A senior official from the Palestinian Liberation Organization told Ma'an, a Palestinian newswire, that the Obama administration has not raised this as a possibility and another senior Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said there has been no discussion of such a meeting.