At his Jerusalem home, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, held his first official meeting with Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas; U.S. secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, and U.S. Middle East Peace Envoy, George Mitchell attended the meeting. Although no signs of any breakthrough regarding Israel’s settlement activities were reported, Mitchell stated that the two sides are discussing core issue, and that the United States is optimistic about the possibilities of achieving a peace deal.
Palestinian Chief Negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, and Israeli Chief Negotiator, Yitzhak Molcho, attended segments of the Abbas-Netanyahu meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, Netanyahu welcomed Abbas and said that the two sides has a lot to do in order to achieve peace.
Talking to reporters in Jerusalem, Mitchell stated that “the discussion of core issues has started”, and advised Abbas and Netanyahu to discuss tough issues now instead of delaying them until a later stage.
“The two leaders are achieving progress regarding settlement construction”, Mitchell said without providing any details. He added that the two parties agreed to resume talks next week.
Meanwhile, Clinton will be heading to Jordan for a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan while Mitchell will be heading to Syria to hold a meeting with Syrian President, Bashar Asad, before heading to Beirut for meeting with Lebanese leaders.
Mitchell said that the motive behind this tour is to encourage the Arab leaders to support a comprehensive peace deal in the region.
Prior to his meeting with Abbas, Netanyahu held a meeting with Clinton and inform her that Israel has no intention to extend the settlement freeze but also stated that “Israel is serious about achieving peace with the Palestinians”.
During the meeting, dozens of settlers protested in front of the home of Netanyahu demanding him to resume the construction of settlements.
Clinton will be heading to Jordan to hold talks with King Abdullah of Jordan and senior Jordanian officials.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Presidency spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rodeina, said that the talks will be tough and added that the Palestinians will not abandon their internationally guaranteed legitimate rights.
He said that the Palestinians are willing to achieve a just and comprehensive peace with Israel.