No breakthroughs in Netanyahu, Mitchell meetings


JERUSALEM (JTA) — George Mitchell and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the second time over the weekend, but did not announce any breakthroughs.

The U.S. envoy to the Middle East met with Israel’s prime minister Sunday after a weekend of shuttle diplomacy that included meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s envoys for Palestinian affairs Mike Herzog and Yitzhak Molcho, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.

Prior to Sunday’s meeting, Netanyahu convened his seven-member inner Cabinet to discuss the directon of his talks with Mitchell.

A statement from the Prime MInister’s Office issued Sunday said that "The Prime Minister and Senator Mitchell met again today and continued their discussions on moving the peace process forward. Defense Minister Ehud Barak joined the meeting, which lasted for over an hour. Later this week, Yitzhak Molcho and Michael Herzog will travel to Washington to continue those discussions."

Mitchell and Netanyahu had a "useful and productive" meeting last Friday, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Mitchell unexpectedly flew to Cairo late Saturday. During his discussions with Suleiman and Gheit, Mitchell had been expected to ask the Egyptians to press Abbas to start direct peace negotiations with Israel, according to reports.

Mitchell called Friday evening’s meeting with Abbas productive, and told reporters that he had invited both sides to a meeting in Washington to discuss the renewal of negotiations — something that likely will take place in about two weeks, according to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

The meetings took place under the backdrop of the announcement that President Obama had received the Nobel Peace Prize, in part for his efforts on behalf of Middle East peace and his outreach to the Muslim world.

On Oct. 8, Mitchell met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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