Mitchell: Peace is ‘central goal’
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Mitchell: Peace is ‘central goal’

JERUSALEM (JTA) — George Mitchell said peace between Israel and the Palestinians, each living in their own state, is the United States’ central goal.

The U.S. Middle East envoy and Israeli President Shimon Peres addressed each other in front of reporters before their Sunday afternoon meeting. They met privately for more than an hour, according to Peres’ office.

The leaders discussed the promotion of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arab peace initiative, which would require Israel to return to pre-1967 borders in return for normalization of ties with the Arab world.

"The Obama administration is working hard to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians in accordance with the principle of two states for two peoples, with both states residing side by side in harmony, peace with Syria and Lebanon, and normalization with other Arab countries," Mitchell said. "That is the central goal to which we aspire.

Peres said it was in the interests of all the sides involved not to let September pass without renewing negotiations.

"I hope that during your visit we will deal with all of the issues on the agenda, so that by the end of the month we will be free to deal with the most important issue of all — establishing peace with Palestinians and the entire Arab world," he said.

The meeting came just hours after Peres was released from an Israeli hospital after fainting Saturday night during a ceremony in Tel Aviv.

Mitchell also was scheduled to meet Sunday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.