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US envoy in new talks with Palestinian president

US envoy George Mitchell and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met on Wednesday for their first meeting since indirect peace negotiations with Israel were launched earlier this month.



Ramallah (West Bank): US envoy George
Mitchell and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met on Wednesday for
their first meeting since indirect peace negotiations with
Israel were launched earlier this month.

Following the discussions in the West Bank`s political
capital Ramallah, Mitchell was scheduled to hold a working
meeting with Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, a
Palestinian official said.

Before the talks, Erakat said they would address final
status issues, referring to core disputes in the decades-old
conflict such as the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian
refugees.
But he also warned that continued Israeli settlement
activity, including in annexed Arab east Jerusalem, could
scupper the talks.

Mitchell plans to shuttle between Washington, Jerusalem
and Ramallah as part of the so-called proximity talks launched
on May 9.

He met Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak yesterday and
planned to hold talks with hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu later today.

The indirect negotiations were first agreed on in March
but the initiative collapsed within days when Israel announced
plans to build 1,600 settler homes in east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians eventually agreed to enter the talks
after receiving US assurances that the project would be
frozen.
Jerusalem and Jewish settlements are among the thorniest
issues in efforts to achieve a peace deal.

Israel, which captured east Jerusalem in 1967 and later
annexed it in a move not recognised by the international
community, considers the Holy City its "eternal and
indivisible" capital, while the Palestinians see east
Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state.

The last round of direct negotiations between the two
sides collapsed in December 2008 when Israel launched a
devastating war on the Gaza Strip in a bid to halt Palestinian
rocket fire aimed at Israeli towns.

PTI

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