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US Envoy Meets Palestinian Leaders to Discuss Peace Talks

  • Robert Berger

Listen to Susan Yackee's interview with VOA's Robert Berger:

U.S. President Barack Obama's point man in the Middle East is continuing with a shuttle mission aimed at reviving the peace process.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank to discuss plans for indirect peace talks with Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee will consider approving the new talks on Saturday.

The peace process has been deadlocked for 16 months. The key stumbling block to resuming negotiations has been Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem-territory which the Palestinians seek for a future state. But under pressure from Washington, Israel has curbed settlement construction, clearing the way for the resumption of talks.

Distrust on both sides runs deep. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat says Israeli actions could quickly doom the peace process.

"If the price that we will pay for saying yes to Mitchell will be more settlements and more dictations, that's a big question mark about the possibility of continuing," said Saeb Erekat.

Israeli officials say the Palestinians have soured the atmosphere going into peace talks with their anti-Israel rhetoric. Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

"The question I want to raise specifically to the Palestinians [is], 'Are they a partner for this peace?'", said Danny Ayalon.

Mitchell plans to shuttle between Jerusalem and the West Bank for four months in the framework of indirect peace talks. Expectations are low for a breakthrough, but both sides say they are prepared to give peace a chance.