Abbas meets Mubarak after Mitchell trip
Failure to agree a settlement freeze inhibits the resumption of peace negotiations with Israel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Egypt's Hosni Mubarak on Saturday, according to state media, Reuters reported.
Abbas visited Cairo days after U.S. envoy George Mitchell and less than a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped by to brief Mubarak and other Egyptian officials on efforts to resume stalled peace talks.
Mitchell returned to Washington on Friday with little to show for his shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Arab capitals.
Israel has blamed Abbas for the impasse, saying Palestinian negotiators "showed no flexibility while Israel did."
Netanyahu, whose right-wing cabinet includes strong pro-settler elements, had offered a nine-month freeze on building in the West Bank -- longer than the six months Israel previously indicated it would consider, but less than the year-long pause Mitchell had sought.
Abbas has said he would not agree to renewed negotiations with Israel unless it agreed to a total freeze on settlement expansion and stressed that the United States must push Israel to comply with the 2003 "road map" call for a cessation of all settlement-building.
An Abbas spokesman said the Cairo meeting -- which lasted an hour and a half -- was called to coordinate Arab and Palestinian positions ahead of the United Nations General Assembly, which starts in New York on Tuesday.
The participants, which included Egypt's foreign minister and intelligence chief and the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, also discussed intra-Palestinian developments, Egypt's state-run news agency MENA said.
Negotiations could not resume because Israel would not consider including Jerusalem in any settlement freeze, nor would it stop building in settlements to accommodate natural growth, MENA quoted Abbas as saying.
Some 300,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, and another 200,000 live in Arab East Jerusalem, areas home to around 2.5 million Palestinians seeking independent statehood. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem as part of its capital in a move not recognized internationally.