No progress on settlement freeze issue
A second round of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks ended without progress Tuesday on the issue of Jewish settlement construction. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned to hold an extra meeting in this Red Sea resort before shifting to Jerusalem for more negotiations Wednesday, according to Israeli officials who was quoted as saying by the AP.
"The parties have begun a serious discussion on core issues," said President Barack Obama's envoy to the region, George Mitchell, after the leaders met for almost two hours with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said the "time is ripe" for a peace deal.
Pressed to say whether there was progress on settlements, Mitchell said, "We continue our efforts to make progress and we believe that we are moving in the right direction, overall."
He repeated Clinton's call for Israel to extend its curb on settlement construction. "We think it makes sense to extend the moratorium, especially given that the talks are moving in a constructive direction," he said. "We know this is a politically sensitive issue in Israel. But we've also called on President Abbas to take steps that help encourage and facilitate this process. We believe both sides have a responsibility to help ensure that these talks continue in a constructive manner.
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