PM supports continued talks: 'We have a mission for peace'

Netanyahu tells Mitchell that Israel wants to continue direct talks after Palestinians threaten to walk away from the table; Egyptian FM says settlement freeze not an important issue.

311_Mitchell and Netanyahu (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)
311_Mitchell and Netanyahu
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell that Israel wants to continue negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, in a meeting on Friday in Jerusalem.
In his opening words, Netanyahu said: "We are making a joint effort with Senator Mitchell to continue talks with [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas. We want to continue talks, and I want it."
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"We have a mission for peace," Netanyahu added.
The Palestinians have threatened to walk away from peace talks if Israel does not renew the 10-month construction freeze that ended on Sunday. Mitchell also plans to meet with Abbas, in an attempt to salvage the talks.
Also on Friday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit criticized the Palestinian Authority for its "insistence" on a moratorium on building in the settlements.
In an interview with London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, Aboul Gheit said waiting for a renewed freeze will only complicate peace talks, and that the most important issue is borders. Aboul Gheit also hinted that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not think a settlement freeze is essential.
The meetings with Mitchell come following reports on Thursday that US President Barack Obama had sent Israel a draft letter in which he offered security guarantees – including a continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley after the creation of a Palestinian state – if Israel in exchange re-instituted the moratorium on new settlement construction for 60 days.
A White House and a State Department official denied the existence of such a letter.