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US Envoy Pushes Palestinians to Enter Direct Talks With Israel


U.S. President Barack Obama's point man in the Middle East is on a new peace mission.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to move from indirect peace talks with Israel to face-to-face negotiations. They discussed the issue at Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah but failed to reach an agreement.

Mitchell said he would continue his efforts and plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday.

Mr. Abbas has resisted American and Israeli pressure for direct talks, insisting on two key conditions: Israel must stop all settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and it must accept the 1967 borders as the reference point for the future borders of a Palestinian state.

At a demonstration in Ramallah, Palestinian factions urged Mr. Abbas to stand firm against direct talks.

"We are here to express our rejection of the pressures on the Palestinian side, which are trying to force them to go to negotiations while Israel continues its settlement building, especially in Jerusalem," said Palestinian legislator Moustafa Barghouti.

Israel says direct peace talks should resume without preconditions. "Ultimately, only through direct talks, face-to-face talks, will it be possible to achieve peace between the two peoples," said Government spokesman Mark Regev.

President Abbas is walking a tightrope. He risks harming ties with the United States by refusing to enter direct negotiations. But there is little support for direct talks on the Palestinian streets without guarantees of Israeli concessions.

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