US: Productive start to peace talks

Mitchell meets PM as Abbas allocates 4 months for the negotiations.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
May 5, 2010 20:02
1 minute read.
Mitchell and Netanyahu launch proximity talks.

NMitchell and Netanyahu launch proximity talks 311. (photo credit: NMatty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell launched Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations Wednesday after a break of more than a year, amid much skepticism from both sides.

Mitchell met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to start the indirect negotiations. He will travel between Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem and the headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

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In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the meeting was "good and productive" but did not give details.

However, the two sides could not even agree about the technicality of whether the talks had begun. Israel labeled the Mitchell-Netanyahu meeting Wednesday as the beginning of the mediation, while Palestinians insisted they still had to give formal approval to the process over the weekend.

Abbas is allocating four months for the indirect talks, insisting that the main disagreements must be discussed — control of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, borders and Israel's West Bank settlements.

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"Negotiations will focus on final status issues and there's no need to enter into details and small matters, because we have had enough of that in the previous negotiations," Abbas said after talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the Jordanian capital.

"We said the indirect negotiations will last only four months," Abbas said. "After that, we will go to the Arab League to consult on whether to continue or what to do."

Mitchell is due to meet Abbas later in the week.


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