Obama to hold trilateral meeting with Netanyahu, Abbas

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will hold a three-way meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday, the White House said.
The trilateral meeting will be "immediately preceded" by bilateral talks between Obama and the two leaders ahead of the United Nations general assembly in New York, the White House said Saturday.
The meeting, which had been called into question after US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell returned empty-handed from a mission to the region, will seek "to lay the groundwork for the relaunch of negotiations, and to create a positive context for those negotiations so that they can succeed."

Obama to hold trilateral meeting with Netanyahu, Abbas
Mitchell wrapped up a mission to the Middle East on Friday after failing to secure an Israeli freeze on settlement expansion that would pave the way for the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, stalled since Israel's devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip in December.
The quartet on Middle East peace -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- also plans to hold talks on the sidelines of the UN general assembly next week.
Israelis and Palestinians blamed each other for the lack of progress made during Mitchell's visit.
The former senator, who helped broker peace in war-torn Northern Ireland in the 1990s, pointed to the upcoming talks as a sign of Obama's "deep commitment to comprehensive peace."
The US president's personal engagement, Mitchell said, comes as "we continue our efforts to encourage all sides to take responsibility for peace and to create a positive context for the resumption of negotiations."
In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levi insisted that "the Palestinian Authority is the one that is preventing the resumption of the peace process by making conditions that it has not made in the past."
Netanyahu's fledgling government, he added, "has always said it was ready to resume, without preconditions, the peace process and meetings with Palestinian Authority representatives."
Palestinians have been demanding a halt to Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem, as a condition for resuming talks with Israel.
But Netanyahu has repeatedly rebuffed US calls to freeze settlement construction, leading to a rare diplomatic spat between the Jewish state and its closest ally.
Abbas in turn blamed Israel for Mitchell's failure to make any breakthrough.
"The road is now blocked," Abbas told reporters in Cairo Saturday after talks with Middle East powerbroker Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, adding that the onus was now on Israel.
"There is no more work (for Mitchell) with the Western or Palestinian sides because we are complying with all our duties. The focus has to be on the Israeli side."
Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah II urged the international community to intervene and put pressure on Israel, saying in a joint statement that settlements are "the key obstacle to achieving progress."

Sunday, September 20th 2009

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