Mitchell fails to break deadlock

Palestinians urge US enovy to have Israel meet its conditions for resumed negotiations.

    Mitchell met Israeli officials a day earlier in his latest attempt to restart peace talks [AFP]

    "Mitchell said that if we want help to achieve a final settlement we must resume the negotiations. This was the main point of discussion," Erekat said.

    "We do not share a common point of view on this issue. We want the resumption of negotiations. We are not obstructing negotiations.

    "We urge them to have the Netanyahu government drop its conditions in order for us to resume negotiations."

    'Israeli obligations'

    The Palestinians have refused to renew peace negotiations unless Israel halts all of its settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Obama administration initially demanded such a freeze as well, but relented when Israel resisted.

    Netanyahu has called a limited and temporary halt to the building of new housing units in the West Bank, but the Palestinians have dismissed the move as not going far enough.

    "When we say a settlement freeze that includes Jerusalem, that is not a Palestinian condition," Erekat said on Friday.

    "That is rather an Israeli obligation, and the same thing is applicable to our demand to have negotiations resume where we left them in December 2008."

    Meanwhile, Mark Regev, the Israeli government spokesman, blamed the Palestinians for the latest impasse.

    "Never before have the Palestinians placed so many preconditions on resuming talks," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

    "They are new preconditions that are only to make restarting the talks difficult."

    Expectations 'too high'

    The US president, meanwhile, has acknowledged that he had underestimated the difficulty of resolving the Middle East conflict and had set his expectations too high in his first year.

    "The Middle East peace process has not moved forward. And I think it's fair to say for all our efforts at early engagement, is not where I want it to be," Barack Obama told Time magazine in an interview published on Thursday.

    "This is just really hard ... This is as intractable a problem as you get.

    "... If we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high."

    Obama said: "I think the Israelis and Palestinians have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions, or the divisions within their societies were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation.

    "And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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