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Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Mitchell arrives in Middle East

George Mitchell
Mr Mitchell failed to negotiate an agreement in September 2009

US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell is in Jerusalem as part of the latest efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

He intends to lay the groundwork ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders starting on Saturday.

A key sticking point is Israel's refusal to freeze settlement building on the occupied West Bank.

Disunity between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah is also a major issue.

Mr Mitchell is holding preparatory talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian officials who have yet to be identified.

Mrs Clinton is due to meet Mr Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas separately, before meeting other Arab leaders in Morocco on Monday.

US President Barak Obama has made addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict a cornerstone of his administration, but despite intensive shuttle diplomacy by Mr Mitchell, there has yet to be a breakthrough.

Negotiations are further complicated by divisions between Mr Abbas's Fatah faction in the West Bank and Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday, Hamas told Palestinians in its jurisdiction not to take part in elections called by Mr Abbas on 24 January 2009.

Bitter rivalry in Gaza resulted in Hamas driving Fatah out in 2007 and the two factions remain at loggerheads.



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