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US Envoy Seeks Restart of Talks During Abbas, Mubarak Meeting


US Mideast envoy George Mitchell, left, during his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo, Egypt, 15 Dec 2010

US Mideast envoy George Mitchell, left, during his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo, Egypt, 15 Dec 2010

U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met in Cairo amid hopes of finding a formula to resume talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The fate of the fragile Middle East peace process was hanging by a thread as Arab diplomats converged on the Egyptian capital to deliberate what to do after Israel and the Palestinians threw up new obstacles.

U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas held lengthy conversations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a bid to find a face-saving resolution to the crisis.

Senator Mitchell said he would continue to work for "substantive" talks and "attempt to make real progress", despite inherent disagreements. "Reaching this goal will not be easy by any means," he says, "The differences between the two sides are real and they are persistent, but the way to get there is by engaging in good faith with the full complexities of the core issues and by working to narrow the gaps between the two sides."

Trying to sound upbeat, the U.S. envoy indicated the opposing sides had agreed to continue working in September and he is still going by that premise.

"In their direct talks in September, both Israelis and Palestinians decided together to pursue a framework agreement that would establish the fundamental compromises on all permanent status issues and it would pave the way for a final peace treaty, That remains our goal," Mitchell said.

Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas is visiting Cairo to seek guidance from the Arab League follow-up committee about if, when and how to proceed with peace talks, following Israel's renunciation of a new settlement freeze. The Palestinians were demanding a new Israeli freeze before engaging in direct talks.

University of Paris political science teacher Khattar Abou Diab believes the Palestinians and the Israelis are frustrated and that neither is offering much incentive to the other side to advance the situation.

He says that (Palestinian President Abbas) is in a bind and the Israelis are not giving any hopeful signs to move things forward, even if the settlement issue was just a pretext. On both sides, he insists, there are hopes and frustrations. He also criticizes President Obama for making the settlement freeze a condition for talks and says that we are now prisoners of that logic.

Abou Diab also points out the Palestinians are increasingly worried the ultimate goal of an independent Palestinian state is looking "more and more like a mirage." He urges the Israeli government to show "more political courage," to coax the Palestinians back to the table.

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