PM meets Mitchell as PLO okays talks

Palestinians to give US mediation a chance; Netanyahu, US envoy have "good discussion."

March 7, 2010 16:16
1 minute read.
Netanyahu meets Mitchell, Sunday.

Mitchell Netanyahu 311. (photo credit: GPO)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met US special envoy George Mitchell in Jerusalem on Sunday after a skeptical Palestinian leadership agreed to hold US-mediated peace talks with Israel.

The Prime Minister's Office said the two met for over two hours, and had a "good discussion on moving the peace process forward." They are set to meet again on Monday.

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Sunday's decision by the Palestine Liberation Organization marks a first achievement for US diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. However, the Palestinians warned they would walk away if the outlines of a border deal with Israel have not emerged after four months. They also ruled out subsequent direct talks without a complete West Bank settlement construction freeze.

"This peace process cannot go on forever," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. "Now it's time for decisions."

Erekat said he did not know when the indirect talks would begin.

The decision by the PLO leadership was expected after the Arab League gave the Palestinians political cover last week by approving the concept of indirect talks.

Mitchell arrived in Israel Saturday night for a two-day visit, amid hopes that after 15 months of deadlock, the peace process might finally be inching forward.

He will be followed on Monday by Vice President Joe Biden, who is making his first trip to the region since taking office in January 2009.

“With the arrival of both the senator [Mitchell] and then the vice president we are hopeful that the diplomatic process will be entering high gear,” a source in the Prime Minister’s Office told The Jerusalem Post.

With the anticipation of Sunday's PLO committee decision, Mitchell plans to lay the groundwork for the indirect talks. He will meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Monday.

Israel and the US would have preferred direct talks, such as those that were held under former prime minister Ehud Olmert until late 2008.

Last week, the Post reported that the indirect talks would not pick up where they left off.

Tovah Lazaroff and Hilary Leila Kreiger contributed to this report

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