New UN envoy: Israelis and Palestinians must stick by 'road map'

The incoming UN Mideast envoy called Wednesday for Israelis and Palestinians to honor the "road map" peace plan and criticized a contentious Israeli construction project in Jerusalem, after the two sides met for their first formal peace talks in nearly seven years, Robert Serry of the Netherlands, who officially takes up his post in January, met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He told reporters that last month's Mideast conference in Annapolis, Maryland, had given new hope for peace, but work must be done to improve the lives of Palestinians even while the sides are trying to hammer out an agreement. "It's very important for both parties to really stick to their commitments under the road map," Serry said. The US-backed plan requires Israel to halt all settlement construction and the Palestinians to halt attacks against Israel as a step toward creation of an independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel.