Israeli and Palestinian leaders believe they can reach a peace deal in a year, Washington’s Middle East envoy said yesterday after talks in Egypt, despite a dispute over Jewish settlements.

No news emerged of any compromise on the settlement issue after negotiations attended by U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

But with a 10-month Israeli moratorium on housing starts in settlements in the occupied West Bank due to end on Sept. 30, U.S. envoy George Mitchell seemed upbeat in the face of Palestinian threats to quit the new talks if building resumes.


“President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu continue to agree that these negotiations, whose goal is to resolve all core issues, can be completed in one year,” Mitchell told reporters.

Clinton, Abbas and Netanyahu later convened for an unexpected second round of talks, this time with top aides present, after the first session broke for lunch.

Mitchell said negotiations would continue tomorrow in Jerusalem with Clinton’s participation, and Israeli and Palestinian teams would meet again “in the coming days” ahead of further talks at the leadership level.

Construction moratorium will expire

Netanyahu, whose coalition government is dominated by
pro-settler parties, has said he would not extend the construction moratorium but could limit the scope of further building in some settlements.

Echoing President Barack Obama’s position, Mitchell said: “We think it makes sense to extend the moratorium, especially given that the talks are moving in a constructive direction.”

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