Middle East peace negotiations. Going nowhere slowly.

Israel has been quite unwilling to completely stop new building or expansion and as a result Abbas refuses direct talks with the Israelis. However, Mitchell is trying a type of indirect talks a process that has not worked before. Israel seems to be in no hurry. Mitchell earlier had suggested withdrawing US loan guarantees as a possible way of putting pressure on Israel but that was met by a storm of protests. It would seem that the tail is wagging the dog with very little resistance from the dog! This is from Haaretz.

Israel's U.S. envoy: Obama peace plan unrealistic


Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, deemed U.S. special Mideast envoy George Mitchell's vision of peace within two years an "unrealistic goal".

Oren told The Washington Post in remarks published Monday that Mitchell's timetable "is unrealistic and might prove counterproductive."

"We know from our experience that state-making takes a long time," he added.

Oren's response came two days after Mitchell suggested that Barack Obama's administration was free to withhold loan guarantees from Israel should the latter delay the peace process any further.

Washington is now considering the possibility of launching "proximity
talks" between Israel and the Palestinians, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to object to direct talks.

Under this plan, Mitchell and his staff would meet separately with both parties, present each side's positions to the other and then try to bridge the gaps. This is the same system both George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton used (unsuccessfully) for Israeli-Syrian talks.

Mitchell: Obama committed to comprehensive Mideast peace

Meanwhile, Mitchell on Monday reaffirmed Washington's support for a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis, and said a comprehensive regional peace was necessary for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"A two-state solution is central to our peace efforts," Mitchell told journalists in Paris, after a meeting with French Foreign Minister
Bernard Kouchner.

Mitchell added that Obama was committed to "a comprehensive peace in the Middle East," which included Israeli peace agreements with Syria and Lebanon as well as formal diplomatic ties between Israel and all its neighbors in the region.

Neither Mitchell nor Kouchner would comment on the present state of Middle East peace negotiations.

The former U.S. senator was in Paris ahead of a meeting of the international community's top negotiators on the Middle East in
Brussels on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Mitchell is to hold talks in Brussels with the European Union's newly-nominated foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, as well as the official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, Tony Blair.


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