10/01/2010, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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US and EU pressures for continued Israeli-Palestinian talks

Mitchell and Ashton meet Netanyahu and Abbas to find ways around Israel’s refusal to maintain its settlement freeze. The Arab League meets to decide whether to bring the issue to an emergency session of the UN Security Council.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – George Mitchell and Catherine Ashton today met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. According to reports from the United Nations, the Arab League is also considering deciding whether to call an emergency Security Council session to examine the consequences of Israel’s refusal to freeze its settlement activities in the Occupied Territories. Both developments are signs that the international community is trying to maintain the momentum of the Arab-Israeli peace process despite all odds against it, especially those laid by the Netanyahu government.

In an unprecedented move, US special envoy George Mitchell and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and then Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in an attempt to keep the talks rolling.

The meetings come following reports from the White House that US President Barack Obama sent Israel a draft letter in which he offered security guarantees—including a continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley after the creation of a Palestinian state—if Israel in exchange reinstituted the moratorium on new settlement construction for 60 days. 

Obama’s move appears to be an attempt to limit the impact of a statement by Israel’s rightwing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said it would take “decades” to reach peace with the Palestinians.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, citing sources in New York, the Arab League is also set to meet on Wednesday to examine Israeli-Palestinian talks and decide whether to call for a special UN Security Council session on Israel’s refusal to continue its settlement freeze, whose deadline expired on Saturday.

The initiative, which could led the UN secretary general to issue a harsh statement, is not welcomed by the United States, which fears that the two sides might take a hard-line on their respective positions, pulling the plug on Obama’s initiative.

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