US Mideast envoy stops in France

March 21, 2010 00:53
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PARIS — US envoy George Mitchell sought advice from France's foreign minister Saturday before heading off to meet Mideast leaders in a bid to start indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Mitchell — who will see Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu first, then Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — said he wanted indirect talks between the leaders to begin as soon as possible.

The US Mideast envoy, after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, also said he hoped indirect discussions could "lead in the near future to direct negotiations between the two parties."

Earlier this month, Israelis and Palestinians had agreed to indirect talks, with Mitchell planning to shuttle between Abbas and Netanyahu.

However, the plan was put on hold after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new houses for Jews in east Jerusalem. Israel's announcement came during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden and sparked a diplomatic row between Israel and the US.

Mitchell declined to give specifics on what he would ask of Israel in order to spark the talks, saying, "We have suggested a range of actions that can be taken on all sides."

Kouchner said France "stands by the United States to stress the need for an immediate start" to the indirect talks.

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