US Mideast envoy meets Netanyahu in uphill peace task
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell met Israel's prime minister again on Sunday after dashing to Egypt as part of an uphill task to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.world Updated: Oct 11, 2009 21:13 IST
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell met Israel's prime minister again on Sunday after dashing to Egypt as part of an uphill task to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
The former US senator was holding talks in Jerusalem with Benjamin Netanyahu, officials said, following separate meetings on Friday with the hawkish premier and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
"Everyone who truly believes in peace has to take responsibility to take actions to achieve that goal," Mitchell told reporters earlier Sunday in Cairo, to where he flew late on Saturday as part of his latest regional trip.
Mitchell held talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman late on Saturday and with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on Sunday before returning to Jerusalem for talks with Netanyahu.
The US envoy arrived in the region Wednesday and is pushing to get Israelis and Palestinians to agree to restart peace negotiations that were suspended in December after the start of the Gaza war.
Early in his trip he said Washington was pushing for an "early relaunch" of negotiations and that the US administration was still deeply and fully committed to the vision of a "viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory."
But hopes for a breakthrough were dim, with Israel dismissing Washington's vision of a regional peace as unrealistic, and no compromise in sight on the thorny issue of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinians have backed US calls that Israel freezes all settlement activity before peace talks are resumed, but the hawkish Netanyahu has refused to do so.
On Sunday, the central committee of Abbas's secular Fatah faction stuck to its "firm position," calling in a statement for "a total halt to settlement activity in all its forms, including occupied (annexed) east Jerusalem."
Mitchell, who played a key role in the diplomacy that preceded the 1998 Good Friday peace deal in Northern Ireland, admitted he was facing an uphill task in his latest mission, saying on Friday that "we do not underestimate the difficulty for us or the parties."
Israel's hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman highlighted the obstacles when he said that the vision of his boss, US President Barack Obama, for a comprehensive peace in the region was unrealistic and an illusion.
"Those who think that we can within the coming years reach a global deal that will end the conflict do not understand reality. They are sowing illusions," Lieberman told public radio on Thursday.
Washington is pushing for a global Middle East deal that would see Israel strike peace with the Palestinians while Syria and Lebanon and Arab countries normalise relations with the Jewish state.
Israel and the Palestinians relaunched their peace negotiations in November 2007 but the talks made little visible progress and were suspended in late December after the start of Israel's war in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.