The U.N. Middle East envoy says the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could begin to evaporate next year unless progress is made in U.S.-mediated talks.
Robert Serry told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that 2011 will be a critical year to reach a peace deal. He called for a "substantive third party role in mediation," including by the Quartet of nations on Mideast peace - the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.
The U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process said Quartet leaders would meet early in 2011. He said the credibility of the political process and of its sponsors "will be at stake."
Serry called Israel's refusal to agree to a new freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank "a serious setback" and said the U.S. now plans to "proactively" engage the Israelis and Palestinians in indirect talks on all final status issues.
He said the goal "must be a two-state solution based on an end to the 1967 occupation and a resolution of all core concerns.Earlier, U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell said the United States is determined to persevere in its efforts to negotiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Mitchell held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Tuesday, after holding a session late Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Aides to President Abbas said Mitchell presented some ideas on how to move forward. They did not elaborate.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday in Washington the U.S. will hold follow-up meetings with the parties next week.
Palestinians have been frustrated by a lack of progress in talks. Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down after an Israeli settlement construction moratorium expired in September.
The State Department said Mitchell's meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu Monday was "long and positive." The meeting came just days after the U.S. decided to stop pushing Israel to halt construction of new Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Mr. Netanyahu welcomed the decision, saying Israelis and Palestinians need to discuss the core issues that are dividing them. However, Palestinians have said they will not return to direct talks unless Israel halts the construction.