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Palestinians to Consult Arab Powers Over Mideast Peace

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a news conference where he mentions the Mideast peace process, after his meeting with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou at premier's office in Athens, Dec 8, 2010

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to hold "urgent" consultations in Cairo Thursday with his Egyptian counterpart in the wake of the U.S. decision to abandon efforts to persuade Israel to renew a West Bank settlement moratorium.

Palestinian officials said Mr. Abbas also has requested an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers to discuss the repercussions of Washington's move. That meeting is expected in the Egyptian capital within days.

Meanwhile, the U.S. said it is sending Middle East envoy George Mitchell back to the region next week in an effort to advance stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

In announcing the Mitchell mission, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the freeze issue had come to overshadow the broader agenda and that it is time to shift tactics.

Crowley said Washington does not believe at this time that an Israeli moratorium can provide the basis for resuming direct negotiations. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reacted to the news by saying the peace process is now "in crisis."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Wednesday that in light of the breakdown, and decisions by Brazil and Argentina this week to unilaterally recognize Palestine as an independent state, his government would formally appeal to the U.S. to do the same.

Erekat said if the U.S. wants to safeguard the two-state solution, it should recognize the Palestinian state within its 1967 borders, including all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. State Department Tuesday expressed its disapproval of the move by South American countries to recognize Palestinian statehood, describing any unilateral action, in the absence of a peace accord between the parties, as unhelpful.

U.S. officials say a broad effort to achieve a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict will continue and that the goal of a framework agreement on core issues has not changed.

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