US Mideast Envoy Returns to Region for Talks

U.S. President Barack Obama’s special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, is in Israel to try to restart peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

On Thursday, Mitchell will meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

He will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday before travelling to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

A senior American official told Israeli media there are no expectations that Mitchell’s visit will result in any breakthroughs.

His visit comes amid repeated clashes this week between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at the Jerusalem compound that is home to both the Al-Aqsa mosque and Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall.

Mitchell is expected to use his visit to call for calm on both sides.

President Obama has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give him a progress report on negotiations in mid-October.

President Obama met with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas during the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York last month.

During that meeting, Mr. Obama said the two leaders had to find a way to resolve issues and restart stalled peace talks.

The Palestinians are demanding that Israel stop settlement activity in the occupied territories before they are willing to resume negotiations.

The settlement dispute is not the only issue stalling the Middle East peace process.

The two sides have yet to agree on the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the borders of a future Palestinian state.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

Photo credit: Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell, file