U.S. Special Middle East Envoy, George Mitchell, stated Thursday that Washington is conducting extensive efforts to ensure the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. His statements came following his meeting with Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, in the central West Bank city of Ramallah.
“We will continue our efforts in the coming days, “Mitchell said, “We are determined to reach mutual understandings that would allow the resumption of talks”.
Head of the Palestinian negotiations team, Dr. Saeb Erekat, stated that the Abbas-Mitchell Ramallah meeting was very detailed and constructive.
“We demanded Mitchell to pressure Israel into halting its settlement activities, including natural growth,” Erekat told reporters. “We are not against talks, but the resumption of settlement activities is responsible for halting these talks”.
He also stated that Abbas sent a letter to U.S. President, Barack Obama, clarifying the Palestinian stance that rejects talks amidst ongoing settlement construction and expansion.
“We seek peace, we value the American efforts to advance the peace process,” Erekat added. “We hope Obama and his administration will be able to oblige Israel to halt all of its settlement activities.”
On Thursday, the Arab League stated that the Arab Follow-up Committee decided to postpone its meeting from November 4th to November 6th in order to give the United States a chance to advance peace talks.
Abbas is expected to attend the meeting of the Arab Follow-up Committee in order to inform its members on the latest developments in talks with Israel.
The Committee said it supports the Palestinian stance regarding rejecting talks amidst ongoing settlement activities.
Meanwhile, the White House denied reports claiming that Obama sent a letter to Netanyahu vowing to support Israel in the peace talks in exchange for a two- month extension of settlement freeze.
The statement came after a report claimed diplomats representing Israel and the United States, vowed to back Israel in peace talks should it extend the freeze for two months.
Israeli Ynet News reported that David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said that the American president guaranteed Israel that the United States will not ask Israel to implement another settlement freeze beyond 60 days.
Makovsky said that the future of settlements would be discussed during territorial negotiations, and that the US will veto any initiative present by Arab or other states during the agreed upon one year peace talks”.
He further stated that the United States will always take into consideration Israel’s security needs and wants to ensure that weapons, rockets and other related combat items will not be smuggled to Gaza.