U.S. envoy back in Jerusalem to pursue peace talks

Thu Oct 29, 2009 11:48am EDT

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell returned to Jerusalem Thursday, in advance of a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Israeli and Palestinian officials have held out little chance of an imminent resumption of talks suspended since December.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insists Israel freeze settlement activity under a 2003 “road map” for peace, a demand Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected.

Mitchell began his 10th mission as envoy to Israel and the Palestinian territories by attending a state memorial for former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated 14 years ago by a right-wing Jew opposed to his peace efforts.

He holds talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday and meets Netanyahu Friday. It was not immediately clear when he would see Palestinian officials.

Clinton, currently visiting Pakistan, will travel to the Middle East and see Netanyahu and Abbas over the weekend, ramping up U.S. efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“These meetings will build on the intensive work the administration has engaged in with both sides since the trilateral meeting last month,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement, referring to talks U.S. President Barack Obama held with Netanyahu and Abbas in New York.

“As Secretary Clinton reported to the president last week, challenges remain as we continue to work with both sides. Her visit reflects the administration’s commitment — and her personal commitment — to work through the challenges we face in pursuit of comprehensive Middle East peace.”


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