Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 18:15 UK

US envoy George Mitchell in Mid-East talks push

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. Photo: 7 May 2010
Mr Peres (r) said Israel was committed to reaching a Middle East settlement

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has met Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to restart indirect talks.

The meetings come one day before the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) decides whether to proceed with talks.

Talks in March were delayed by a row over building in East Jerusalem. Washington has said it expects the so-called proximity talks within days.

Mr Abbas is to advise Mr Mitchell of the PLO decision later on Saturday.

Middle East peace talks have been stalled since 2008.

Shuttle diplomacy

In Jerusalem, President Peres told Mr Mitchell that Israel was committed to reaching a Middle East settlement, but stressed that the country's security must be at the top of the agenda of any possible indirect talks.

Osnat Schwartz, Israeli citizen

Later on Friday, Mr Mitchell met Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and also Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

He then went to the West Bank to hold separate talks with Mr Abbas. No statements were made after the meeting.

The US envoy, who arrived in the region on Wednesday, has already seen Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu twice.

Mr Abbas has said he wants the backing of the PLO, due to meet on Saturday, before committing to the indirect talks.

After the Arab League backed Palestinian participation in the talks last Saturday, Mr Abbas said he did not "want to lose hope".

The Palestinians pulled out of talks in March after an announcement that Israel had approved plans for new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo during a visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden.

The move caused deep strain in Israeli-US relations.

The Palestinian Authority's formal position is that it will not enter direct talks unless Israel completely halts building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In November, Israel announced a 10-month suspension of new building in the West Bank, under heavy US pressure.

But it considers areas within the Jerusalem municipality as its territory and thus not subject to the restrictions.

Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967. It insists Jerusalem will remain its undivided capital, although Palestinians want to establish their capital in the east of the city.

Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements in the West Bank, among a Palestinian population of about 2.5 million.

The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

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