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US Envoy Urges 'Prompt' Middle East Peace Talks

The U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, says Washington is committed to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Mitchell spoke to reporters in Ramallah Wednesday after talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

He said President Barack Obama has made it clear that "the only viable resolution to this conflict is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states."

Mitchell said the United States is seeking the "prompt resumption and early conclusion" of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, echoing a comment he made a day earlier after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Tuesday, Mitchell assured Mr. Netanyahu that the U.S. commitment to Israel's security is "unshakable," despite differences between the two allies on the issues of Jewish settlements and the creation of a Palestinian state.

The U.S. envoy also said Israel and the Palestinians must stick to terms of the internationally backed "road map" to Middle East peace, which calls for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to make a major policy speech Sunday outlining his views on peace and security. He has refused to endorse the U.S.-backed idea of a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel, or to accept U.S. calls for Israel to stop construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

The State Department says Mitchell heads to Egypt next on his regional tour, and will also stop in Lebanon and Syria before returning to Washington.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Tueday the visit to Syria is in line with U.S. President Barack Obama's commitment to outreach with regional adversaries.

The U.S. has not had an ambassador in Syria since Syrian officials were implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria has denied involvement in the killing.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters