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US Envoy Urges Israel, Palestinians to Exercise Restraint

  • Luis Ramirez

U.S. special envoy George Mitchell met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Jordanian capital, Amman, and urged both sides to create the conditions necessary for a new set of negotiations.

"On behalf of the United States and the president, I urge all sides to exercise restraint," said George Mitchell. "What is needed now is a period of calm and quiet in which we can go forward in the effort in which we are engaged."

The region has seen a new wave of violence in recent days, with clashes erupting between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli police in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In the past few days, several Palestinians have been killed in the confrontations.

U.S. efforts to bring both sides back to the table have been further complicated by a diplomatic rift between Israel and Washington, after Israel announced its approval of 1,600 new housing units to be built in East Jerusalem.

At talks with Mitchell in Amman, Mr. Abbas indicated the Palestinians have still not decided whether to return to negotiations.

Mr. Abbas said the Palestinians are waiting for an answer in the coming few days and they hope this answer will include acceptance of a statement by the Quartet of world powers mediating the conflict that urges Israel to freeze all settlement activity.

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned Israel's continued expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"Our positions are very well clear-cut, defined," said Saeb Erekat. "We need to give proximity talks the chance they deserve, but we want to make sure that the decision of the Israeli government to construct 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem and more to come is really stopped."

Mitchell later met with Jordan's King Abdullah. A palace statement said the monarch told the U.S. envoy that Israel must stop all unilateral measures in the occupied Palestinian territories, and what it described as provocative moves aimed at changing Jerusalem's identity.

The proximity talks mediated by the United States are meant to lay groundwork for future direct negotiations. Both sides suspended talks more than a year ago.