Mitchell meets with Abbas about continuing talks

Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath, PLO Member Hanna Amireh skeptic about resumption of talks without extension of West Bank freeze.

Abbas Mitchell 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Abbas Mitchell 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
US peace envoy George Mitchell met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday to discuss the prospect of continuing direct talks between both sides. While the meeting did not achieve any tangible results, Abbas and Mitchell agreed to carry on their discussion in the following days.
Palestinian officials on Wednesday expressed skepticism about the resumption of peace talks and signaled they would accept nothing less than an extension of the West Bank settlement construction moratorium ahead of the scheduled arrival of US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell and European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton to the region on Thursday.
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Veteran Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath said Israel should be blamed for any breakdown of the negotiations if it insists on expanding settlements on lands claimed by the Palestinians for their state.
"Unless the settlement activities stop completely, there is no use in continuing these negotiations," Sha'ath told The Associated Press.
"There is no progress on this issue," he added. "Apparently the Israelis are determined to swallow and steal the land and consider that much more important than peace."
Hanna Amireh, a member of the PLO body, said there was widespread opposition to resuming talks without a settlement curb. "The consensus is that since the entire world is in favor of a Palestinian state and against settlements, then let us throw this problem in the face of the world and see what they can do about it," Amireh said.
Mitchell, is making a secretive last-minute attempt to rescue the negotiations. He will travel to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank headquarters on Thursday, after meeting with Israeli leaders on Wednesday. Mitchell said after talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he is undaunted by what he described as "bumps in the road," but offered no glimpse of a possible compromise.
Ashton, announced she is heading to the region "as a matter of priority" after talking to Mitchell and international Mideast envoy Tony Blair. Starting Thursday, the EU foreign policy chief will meet with Netanyahu, Abbas and Mitchell over two days to try to prevent the collapse of negotiations. She reiterated in a statement that the EU regrets Israel's decision not to extend a 10-month-old moratorium on West Bank settlement construction that expired on September 26.