Barak, Mitchell discuss restarting peace talks

Two-hour meeting focuses on measures needed to resume stalled negotiations.

Barak meets with Mitchell in Tel Aviv, Thursday. (photo credit: Defense Ministry)
Barak meets with Mitchell in Tel Aviv, Thursday.
(photo credit: Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell in Tel Aviv on Thursday morning, to discuss security and diplomatic matters.
A statement from the Defense Ministry said that the two-hour meeting focused on steps needed to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Mitchell was scheduled to hold separate talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later Thursday and on Friday.
Mitchell was expected to discuss with Netanyahu a Palestinian Authority push for a total construction freeze, in both the settlements and east Jerusalem, of between three to six months.
Mitchell, who has not been to the region since early November, arrived in Israel after two days of talks in Lebanon, and - in addition to going to the PA - is also expected to visit Syria during this trip.
The US has been urging the PA to return to negotiations since the cabinet approved the housing-start moratorium on November 25, and has also been trying to get the Arab world, specifically Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to encourage Abbas to return to the table.
In exchange for the PA returning to the negotiating table, it is widely assumed that Israel would be asked to take some additional steps. Among the ideas that have been raised are expanding Area A in the West Bank, where the Palestinians have both civil and security control; removing more roadblocks; releasing Palestinian security prisoners to Abbas; opening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip to allow for a greater flow of goods and materials; and reopening the Orient House in east Jerusalem.
Herb Keinon and AP contributed to this report.