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Palestinian Official: US Envoy Fails to Secure Settlement Deal

By VOA News
18 September 2009

A Palestinian official says U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell has failed to secure a deal on Jewish settlements that is seen as key to advancing the Middle East peace process.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Mitchell reached no agreement in talks with Israeli officials on a settlement construction freeze.

Erekat reiterated the Palestinian position that there is no middle ground solution on the settlement issue.

Erekat spoke after Mitchell met Friday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. Mitchell later held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem for the second time on Friday.

The U.S. envoy has been in the region for nearly a week trying to broker a compromise on the settlement issue that would lead to a meeting with Palestinian and Israeli leaders during the U.N. General Assembly next week in New York.

Palestinians have said they will participate in the meeting only if Israel stops building settlements on land Palestinians want for a state. Washington supports a construction freeze in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But Israeli officials have said they are prepared to reduce construction on West Bank settlements only for a limited period. They say East Jerusalem is not a settlement and building there will continue.

The Israelis also say settlement construction is necessary for population growth.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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