'No R. Shlomo building for 2 yrs'

US: Israeli pledge made at start of peace talks; Obama warns sides.

Mitchell waves 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Mitchell waves 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israel has agreed to freeze construction in east Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo for two years, the US  State Department said Sunday, following the completion of the first round of indirect Middle East peace talks.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said both Israel and the Palestinians had taken some steps to create an atmosphere conducive to successful talks, including the Israeli pledge of no construction in the neighborhood. Ramat Shlomo was at the center of a storm between Jerusalem and Washington last month when the approval of some 1,600 housing units there was revealed during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel.
Crowley said in a statement that US special envoy George Mitchell had left the Middle East after concluding talks characterized as serious and wide-ranging.
Mitchell told the parties that progress was important so they could move to direct negotiations resulting in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Over the next four months, Mitchell will ply the road between the offices of Abbas and Netanyahu to try to narrow vast differences over the terms of Palestinian independence.
Crowley said that Mitchell would return in a week for another round of shuttle diplomacy.
Just after the completion of Sunday's negotiations, US President Barack Obama issued a firm warning to both Israel and the Palestinians.
Obama said that if either Israel or the Palestinian Authority takes any steps which jeopardize the negotiations, the US will hold that side, and that side alone, responsible for the failure of the talks, Channel 2 reported.
Earlier Sunday, speaking after a meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Mitchell, chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said he hoped Israel would give the process a chance, rather than setting facts on the ground that will complicate the talks.
However, he said the Palestinians would only agree to direct talks should Israel impose a complete settlement construction freeze.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, congratulated the Palestinian Authority on agreeing to enter the proximity peace talks
At the start of the cabinet meeting, the prime minister stressed the government’s success in insisting that the Palestinians enter the negotiations without preconditions, and the need to quickly progress to direct talks.