Mitchell pushes for prompt peace talks

After meeting Abbas, US envoy says America won't turn its back on legitimate Palestinian aspirations.

The United States seeks a "prompt resumption and early conclusion" of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Washington's special Mideast envoy said after talks Wednesday with Palestinian leaders. Former Sen. George Mitchell did not give any timetable in his prepared statement to reporters after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah. "The only viable resolution to this conflict is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states," Mitchell said. "As President Obama said last week, America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own." Americans, Europeans, Arabs and others who seek to promote peace "all share an obligation to create the conditions for the prompt resumption and early conclusion of negotiations," he said. Abbas gave Mitchell an itemized list of Israeli settlement expansion and Palestinian homes that Israel has recently demolished in east Jerusalem, the sector of the city the Palestinians claim for a future capital, senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said. In his meeting Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mitchell sought to allay Israeli fears over the growing rift, assuring Israel that the US commitment to Israeli security was "unshakable." It remains unclear whether Netanyahu will soften any of his positions in a policy speech he is scheduled to deliver on Sunday. Erekat declined to disclose whether Mitchell brought any indication to Abbas that Netanyahu had modified his stance. The US knows that when Israel "says it doesn't accept the two-state solution and doesn't want to freeze settlement expansion, that means it says 'no' to resuming negotiations," Erekat said. Mitchell's latest swing through the region is also set to include stops in Lebanon and Syria.