Washington: The United States has said it was
disappointed by Israel`s refusal to extend a slowdown in
settlement construction and dispatched special Middle East
peace envoy George Mitchell to the region in an urgent bid to
salvage the stalled negotiations.
"We are disappointed but we remain focused on our
long-term objective and will be talking to the parties about
the implications of the Israeli decision," State Department
spokesman PJ Crowley said, adding that Mitchell would "sort
through with the parties where we go from here."
The comments came after Israel defied US and
international demands to extend a 10-month slowdown on
settlement construction in the West Bank, raising the prospect
of the Palestinians abandoning the negotiations in protest.
The slowdown expired on Sunday and the Palestinians had been
threatening to walk out of talks if it was not extended.
Crowley yesterday said the US position in support of
extending the slowdown on settlements remained unchanged and
praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for not
immediately walking out of the talks.
"In our discussions with both sides over the weekend, we
encouraged restraint whatever decision was made on the Israeli
side and the Palestinian response so far reflects that
restraint," Crowley said. "We had called upon both sides to be
constructive in the actions that they take from this point
forward and certainly the restraint at this point is
Mitchell was to depart last evening and hold meetings
with Israeli and Palestinian officials beginning today. The
specific schedule is still being worked out, Crowley said.
Crowley said the US is still focused on promoting
negotiations on a "two-state solution" in which an independent
Palestinian state exists beside a secure Israel. Crowley
encouraged "constructive actions" toward reaching that goal.
"We believe if we can successfully get by this turbulence
that we are experiencing now, there is absolutely an
opportunity for a successful negotiation," he said.