Still no US-Israel settlement agreement

Netanyahu-Mitchell meeting summarized as "good;" PM's representatives to travel to US next week.

Netanyahu brown dont touch me there248.8 (photo credit: AP)
Netanyahu brown dont touch me there248.8
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell emerged from a four-hour meeting in London Wednesday saying that there had been "progress" and that Israel and the Palestinians should soon begin significant negotiations. A joint statement put out by the US and Israel characterized the meeting as "good" and said that the goal of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would be to make progress towards the drawing up of a comprehensive peace agreement. The statement said "both sides need to take practical steps towards furthering the peace." It was agreed that representatives from Netanyahu's office would travel to the US next week for further meetings with Mitchell's staff. Netanyahu then boarded a plane en route to Berlin where he will meet German President Horst Köhler. Prior to the meeting, Netanyahu said Israel and the US were making headway in defusing a public disagreement over West Bank settlements. The prime minister added that he wants an agreement which allows Israel to proceed with some settlement construction, while at the same time, restarting peace talks with the Palestinians. In the past week, both Israel and the US have been signaling that an agreement could be within reach. Speaking alongside Mitchell before the meeting, Netanyahu said he hoped peace negotiations would resume "shortly." "We are making headway. My government has taken steps in both words and deeds to move forward," he said. On Tuesday, Netanyahu told British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the settlements were a territorial issue that could be resolved in negotiations with the Palestinians, but the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people was the core problem preventing a peace agreement. He also pointed out that the conflict long predated the settlements, stressing that the issue was not the cause of the Israeli-Arab dispute. Following his meeting with Mitchell, Netanyahu will fly to Germany for a day of talks there. He is scheduled to return to Israel early on Friday morning. Schalit is expected to be a major topic of conversation in Berlin. Herb Keinon contributed to this report