03/08/2010, 00.00
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Biden mission to start indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians meets with scepticism

US vice president is in Jerusalem, plans to talk with leaders on both sides. He will stop in Jordan and Egypt, and meet Tony Blair on Wednesday. Israel announces new construction in the West Bank.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, US-mediated indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians will be a last chance for peace. His view sums up how Palestinians feel about the recent US initiative.

US envoy George Mitchell is scheduled to talk Monday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured). His visit precedes that of US Vice President Joe Biden who arrived this morning in Israel.

Mr Biden is set to meet Israeli leaders tomorrow, including President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni. He also plans to see Tony Blair, special envoy for the Quartet negotiating group (European Union, United States, Russia and United Nations). The US vice president will also see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He will also travel to Jordan and Egypt.

The latest US attempt to jumpstart the peace process, stalled since 2008, has been met by scepticism.

For Israeli daily, “Biden's Israel visit is a year too late”. Israel’s decision to authorise the construction of 112 new apartments in the West Bank despite a pledge to slow settlement building is not helping.

The news that the government gave the green light to construction in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit is front-page news in Israel, especially as it relates to Biden’s visit and runs counter to US and Palestinian demands for a stop on settlement activity.

Indeed, senior Palestinian officials remain sceptical about the mission’s outcome. “We think it's unlikely that these indirect negotiations with the Netanyahu government will succeed," said Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Fatah official. Hamas, in any event, will slam the talks.

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