Blair says peace within a year is a real possibility

Abbas on talks: "We will continue to search for solutions;" US envoy Mitchell claims both sides want to continue negotiations.

Blair 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Blair 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Peace between Israel and the Palestinians within a year is possible, said Tony Blair on Sunday in an interview with Italian network RAI TV.
The Quartet envoy to the Middle East and former British prime minister outlined the reasons for his belief, saying that he felt people want peace and that US President Obama has made the issue an absolute priority.
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Following a meeting Sunday between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah II and US envoy George Mitchell, Abbas told reporters in Amman that despite serious issues blighting the peace talks, he would continue to "search for solutions."
According to news agency reports, he also reiterated that Israel's refusal to extend the settlement construction freeze was holding up negotiations, but that he would not stop discussions with the US as a result.
Of course, we are not going to sever ties with the Americans, and we will continue to have contacts with them to search for solutions, but the settlement building should stop and then we will return to the negotiating table," he said.
Earlier on Sunday during a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, US envoy George Mitchell said that the Palestinians are interested in peace talks with Israel continuing.
"Despite their differences, both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have asked us to continue these discussions in an effort to establish the conditions under which they can continue direct negotiations," Mitchell told reporters after his meeting with Mubarak.
"They both want to continue these negotiations, they do not want to stop the talks," he added.
Directly after the meeting in Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit backed the Palestinians' refusal to negotiate with Israel as long as it continues to build West Bank settlements, even as officials urged continued diplomacy Sunday to salvage the month-old talks.
"We understand the Palestinian position which calls for setting the appropriate environment and circumstances for negotiations to take place and continue," Aboul Gheit said. "The current conditions are not favorable."
Aboul Gheit said the focus now should be on continued US and international efforts to pressure Israel into agreeing to extending the settlement moratorium.