Mitchell, Netanyahu make ‘good progress’


JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. envoy George Mitchell said he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made "good progress" during a meeting in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu told Mitchell during Tuesday morning’s meeting that Israel is working to advance the peace process with the Palestinians, and Mitchell said the sides are close to reaching understandings that will constitute a basis for continuing the diplomatic peace process, according to a statement Tuesday from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Mitchell met Monday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and reportedly told Abbas that there is "a gap" between Israel and the United States on the issue of settlements. Abbas has refused to enter into renewed negotiations with Israel until it freezes all settlement construction.

The Arab language daily newspaper Al-Hayyat reported Tuesday that a senior aide to Mitchell told Abbas that final-status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be limited to a year and a half, according to Reuters.  

Mitchell met Sunday evening in Tel Aviv with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, following meetings earlier in the day with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Mitchell called differences between Israel and the U.S. "discussions among friends" and "not disputes among adversaries."

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