JERUSALEM - Middle East envoy George Mitchell was continuing his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Friday in a push to launch proximity talks.
President Shimon Peres told Mitchell at their morning meeting in Jerusalem that "the resolution of the security issues at the heart of these negotiations is crucial," citing the IDF's withdrawal from Gaza resulting in thousands of rockets falling
on Israelis as a sobering lesson.
Later Friday morning, Mitchell met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The US envoy is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday afternoon ahead of Saturday's PLO Executive Committee meeting on authorizing proximity talks. A second meeting is scheduled for Saturday after the expected authorization, and Mitchell is due to leave the region on Sunday.
On Thursday, Abbas said the US has assured him no “acts of provocation” would occur during the indirect talks, which the Palestinian Authority insists includes any Israeli construction beyond the Green Line. Abbas admitted that the PA did not receive any specific assurances regarding construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
Former head of the PA's negotiating team Ahmed Qurei (Abu Alaa) said he would oppose entering negotiations unless the US gave the Palestinian Authority written assurances Israel would freeze all construction in the West Bank including east Jerusalem, and would insist the question of Jerusalem was addressed early in negotiations, Israel Radio reported.
London based pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi reported widespread opposition among PLO leadership to approving talks discontent at Abbas backing down from demands he had set before as conditions for renewed negotiations.
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