The Israeli insistence on building settlements has blocked EU and US attempts to salvage peace talks, a top Palestinian official was quoted as saying by AFP Friday. "The American efforts are ongoing but there has been no breakthrough so far because Israel is pursuing settlement activities," a spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said.
"President Abbas made it clear to Senator (George) Mitchell that no negotiations will take place as long as the settlement activities are ongoing," Nabil Abu Rudeina conveyed after Abbas' second meeting with the US envoy in 24 hours.
Mitchell and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton were shuttling Friday between Jerusalem and Ramallah in a bid to broker a compromise that would secure the future of direct peace talks launched only four weeks ago. Speaking in Jerusalem at the end of a 24-hour visit, Ashton urged Israel to reimpose a ban on building new settler homes in the occupied West Bank to give the talks a chance.
Senior officials in both Washington and Brussels have made clear that they want Israel to extend the moratorium on settlement building. Its expiry prompted Palestinian threats to quit the talks. "I have urged Israel to continue the moratorium and to allow the talks more time to make great progress," Ashton said after 24 hours of meetings with Mitchell, Netanyahu, Abbas and Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad.