Netanyahu Hopes US Mediation Efforts Will Help Restart Peace Talks Soon
Netanyahu Hopes US Mediation Efforts Will Help Restart Peace Talks Soon
<!-- IMAGE -->

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told visiting U.S. envoy George Mitchell he hopes peace talks with the Palestinians will re-launch as soon as possible. Mitchell is in Israel preparing the ground for a visit Saturday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is yet another sign of President Barack Obama's urgent drive to restart the talks, which have been stalled since December.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday said he hopes the flurry of visits by high-ranking U.S. officials will help re-launch the peace negotiations as soon as possible.

Speaking as he headed into a meeting with U.S. envoy George Mitchell, the Israeli leader brought up the subject of Iran's nuclear activities which Israel believes are for military purposes.  Mr. Netanyahu expressed appreciation for what he said are U.S. efforts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear military capability. He gave a cautious endorsement of U.S.-backed U.N. plan to handle Iran's enriched uranium.

"I think that the proposal that the President made in Geneva to have Iran withdraw its enriched uranium, or a good portion of it, outside Iran is a positive first step in that direction and I support and appreciate the President's ongoing efforts to unite the international community to address the challenge of Iran's attempts to become a nuclear military power," said Mr. Netanyahu.

Secretary Clinton is due in Israel for talks with Israeli leaders on Saturday.  She is earlier scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Abu Dhabi.

U.S. mediators face huge gaps as they try to broker a return to talks, with neither side showing signs of a willingness to compromise.   

The Palestinians insist they will not go back to negotiations until Israel freezes all construction on Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.  Israel says it wants negotiations without preconditions and has offered only a partial freeze on construction.

The visits by U.S. officials have been preceded by clashes over the last few weeks between Israeli police and Palestinians, as well as deepening divisions among Palestinian factions.