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(photo credit: AP)
The US envoy to the Middle East was holding talks with the Palestinian leader on Friday afternoon, even as hopes are fading that Washington could restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations anytime soon.
US President Barack Obama voiced that pessimism in comments in a Time Magazine interview on Thursday, indicating he may have overreached in his Mideast efforts.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he will not resume negotiations without an internationally mandated West Bank settlement freeze.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has agreed only to a slowdown in construction, and that has left the sides at an impasse.
Envoy George Mitchell met Abbas on Friday. He held talks with Netanyahu on Thursday.
A senior official tried to lower any expectations that Mitchell's current regional trip - the US envoy arrived in Israel Wednesday night from Lebanon and Syria - would lead to any dramatic progress, saying that it was not clear whether the Palestinian Authority had made the strategic decision to re-enter the talks.
The official said Netanyahu had no intention of giving Mitchell any more gestures to take to the Palestinians, saying that the Palestinians have climbed up a "eucalyptus tree," and every time a gesture is given as a ladder, they climb even higher.
Meanwhile, during a press conference in Washington with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Thursday night, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that while the US would continue to work for Middle East peace, it was ultimately up to Israel and the Palestinians.
"This issue is between Israel and the Palestinians," she said. "The US, UK, EU and the Arab League, everybody can work together to create a positive atmosphere, we will continue to do whatever we can, and we urge both parties to return to the negotiations table."