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Envoy Tells Palestinians US Committed to Palestinian Statehood

U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell has told Palestinian leaders the United States remains committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Mr. Mitchell met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank as part of a stepped up U.S. effort to restart the peace process.

Envoy George Mitchell came here to reaffirm the words of U.S. President Barack Obama, who in a speech to the Muslim world last week said the only way to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict is through a two-state solution.

Mr. Mitchell spoke to reporters after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"The United States is fully committed to working toward comprehensive peace throughout the Middle East. As President Obama said last week, America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own," he said.

Mitchell repeated remarks he made in Israel on Tuesday, when he said the United States wants to see a prompt resumption and early conclusion of peace negotiations.

During this trip, the U.S. envoy has called on the Palestinians and Israel to fulfill their obligations under the 2003 Roadmap to Peace.

The international plan calls for an end to the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the establishment of a Palestinian state, and for the Palestinian authorities to clamp down on militant groups so that a new Palestinian state can live in peace and security alongside Israel.

Palestinian officials welcomed Mitchell's remarks. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority is doing its part to secure the territories in keeping with the terms of the Roadmap agreement.

"President Abbas reiterated also his full commitment to all our obligations emanating from the Roadmap. That is, the one authority, the one gun, stopping incitement, ending chaos, ending lawlessness," he said.

The tense internal standoff between Hamas militants who control the Gaza Strip and President Abbas' moderate Fatah faction - which rules only the West Bank - threatens prospects for statehood. A number of people have been killed during the past two weeks in skirmishes between militants and Mr. Abbas' security forces in the West Bank.

Mitchell met Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has put himself at odds with the Obama administration by refusing to endorse a two-state solution, and by saying his government will not halt the expansion of settlements.

Domestically, the Israeli leader is under pressure from the right-wing members of his governing coalition who demand that he not halt settlement expansion. Analysts say giving in to U.S. pressure may cause Mr. Netanyahu's coalition to break apart, plunging Israel into a political crisis.

The Israeli leader is scheduled to deliver a policy speech on Sunday.

George Mitchell also met with Tzipi Livni, the moderate leader of the Israeli opposition.

The U.S. envoy's next stops in the region are Lebanon and Syria.