Netanyahu, Abbas talk ‘tough issues’ in Jerusalem


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas discussed "tough issues" at their meeting in Jerusalem, George Mitchell said.

"They are tackling up front the issues that are at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Mitchell, the U.S. Mideast envoy, told reporters following the meeting, the third between the two leaders in two days. "I will say that the two leaders are not leaving the tough issues to the end of their discussions. We take this as a strong indicator of their belief that peace is possible."

Abbas traveled from Ramallah in the West Bank to Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon for direct talks with Netanyahu at his official residence. They met first with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mitchell.

Clinton and Israeli President Shimon Peres met Wednesday morning. Clinton told reporters that the leaders are serious about peace.

"They are getting down to business. They have begun to grapple with the core issues that can only be resolved through face to face negotiations," she said. "This is the time, and these are the leaders."

Talks were held Tuesday in the Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheik.

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