Israel-Palestine direct talks end in EgyptSeptember 14th, 2010 - 9:25 pm ICT by IANS
Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt), Sep 14 (DPA) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have held a “serious discussion on core issues”, Middle East envoy George Mitchell said Tuesday, after the pair held an hour and 40 minutes of face-to-face talks.
The tense meeting, in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, is still believed to be deadlocked by the issue of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
The talks, the second round of resumed direct negotiation, was mediated by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Washington’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell, and will resume in Jerusalem Wednesday.
The two leaders “negotiated in good faith”, Mitchell told reporters, adding that “We (the US) think it makes sense to extend the moratorium”, referring to Israel’s partial ban on new building, which expires later this month.
Israelis reject a total freeze, while the Palestinians oppose any new buildings in the settlements, with Abbas threatening to walk out of the talks if construction goes ahead.
However, an aide to Netanyahu, Ofir Gendelman, told reporters in Sharm el-Sheikh, “We will not prolong the moratorium.”
“We are aware of the sensitivity of the issue to the Palestinians so we are eager to find a way for all of us to go forward,” he added.
“Both sides have responsibility to help peace talks continue in a productive manner,” Mitchell said in a brief press conference, confirming that talks would continue the next day in Jerusalem.
Few other concrete details of the behind-closed-doors talks were given.
Palestinian officials have called the settlements a “test” of Israeli intentions in the talks.
Over 2,000 housing units are ready for construction in Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank as soon as the 10-month partial building freeze ordered by Netanyahu expires, the Israeli Peace Now activist group said this week.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Abbas not to continue the talks which he called “catastrophic and destructive”.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, is being left out of the talks and opposes the negotiations.
Clinton met with Abbas, Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak in the morning, ahead of the main talks.
All four are expected to meet together for a lunch being hosted by Mubarak.
The parties will move to Jerusalem Wednesday for further discussions.
Mitchell said Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would meet again in the days after the Jerusalem talks.
Clinton is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah Thursday and conclude her trip by meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman.
Arab ministers are set to convene in Cairo Thursday to review the peace process, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.
“Our position has been clear. We refuse any end to the moratorium,” Aboul Gheit said in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders held their first direct peace talks in nearly two years in Washington this month with US President Barack Obama, saying a peace agreement could be reached within a year.
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