US Mideast Envoy: Palestinians Want Peace Talks to Continue
The U.S. envoy to the Middle East says the Palestinians want peace talks to continue, even though the Palestinians decided that direct negotiations cannot resume until Israel stops building settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Diplomatic efforts are continuing to save the Middle East peace process from collapse.
Israel is urging the Palestinians not to quit direct peace talks that began only a month ago. On Saturday, Palestinian leaders led by President Mahmoud Abbas declared they would not return to negotiations until Israel imposed a freeze on settlement construction.
The talks plunged into crisis last week, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to extend a 10-month moratorium on building in the West Bank.
Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says quitting will not accomplish anything.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu called upon President Abbas to continue with these talks because ultimately, only through ongoing, serious, direct talks can we build a better future for Israelis and Palestinians," Regev said.
During a four-day peace mission last week to Jerusalem and the West Bank, U.S. envoy George Mitchell tried to persuade Mr. Netanyahu to extend the construction freeze, but to no avail. The Israeli leader is under pressure to keep building from his right-wing coalition partners who support the settlers.
Palestinian spokesman Husam Zomlot says the alleged Israeli coalition problems are just an excuse.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, meets with U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010
"Mr. Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, was able to enforce a moratorium before the direct negotiations; then he can and should enforce such a moratorium during the direct talks," Zomlot said. "The game of deceit is over for us Palestinians; we will not accept playing with words."
Ambassador Mitchell met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday in Cairo. The envoy said the United States is determined to get the peace process back on track.
"Despite their differences, both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have asked us to continue these discussions in an effort to establish the conditions under which they can continue direct negotiations," Mitchell said. "They both want to continue those negotiations. They do not want to stop the talks."
Mitchell is trying to hammer out a compromise before the Arab League meets Friday in Libya to discuss the fate of the peace talks.