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US Urges Mideast Peace Talks Despite Israeli Pessimism

By VOA News
08 October 2009

U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is urging Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks, even though Israel's top diplomat expressed pessimism about reaching an agreement anytime soon.

Before a meeting with Mitchell Thursday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio that Israelis and Palestinians should try to reach interim agreements and resolve the tough issues later.

Mitchell began his latest round of talks in the region by meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres Thursday.

Before those talks, Mitchell told reporters the U.S. will continue its efforts to get the two sides to restart negotiations.

On Friday, Mitchell will hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before traveling to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mitchell's visit comes at a time of heightened tension in Jerusalem, after recent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at the Jerusalem compound that is home to both the Al-Aqsa mosque and Judaism's holiest site, the Western Wall.

U.S. President Barack Obama met with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas during the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York last month.

During that meeting, Mr. Obama said the two leaders had to find a way to resolve issues and restart stalled peace talks.

The Palestinians are demanding that Israel stop settlement activity in the occupied territories before they are willing to resume negotiations.

The settlement dispute is not the only issue stalling the Middle East peace process.

The two sides have yet to agree on the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the borders of a future Palestinian state.

Mr. Obama has asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give him a progress report on negotiations in mid-October.

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

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