US envoy to hold new talks with Israelis and Palestinians
The US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, arrives Saturday night in Israel and the Palestinian territories to hold new talks with officials of both governments, dpa reported.
Mitchell is expected to hold several meetings in order to find means to launch indirect peace negotiations between the two sides, after 15 months of freeze.
Mitchell's schedule has not been published, but Palestinian government sources said he was due to meet President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday.
The Arab League on Wednesday supported the start of so-called "proximity talks" between Israelis and Palestinians, which both sides have said could begin next week.
"We expect both parties to act seriously and in good faith. If one side, in our judgment, is not living up to our expectations, we will make our concerns clear and we will act accordingly to overcome that obstacle," US administration said in a statement sent to the Palestinian Authority and published by Israeli newspaper Haaretz Friday.
The visit will be reinforced Monday, when US Vice President Joe Biden is to arrive in the region. Biden's visit is his first to Israel and the West Bank as vice president.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to ask the support of his Fatah party and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on Sunday.
Fatah's Central Committee and the PLO's Executive Committee are also scheduled to hold separate meetings over the start of indirect talks with Israel on Sunday.
Direct Israeli-Palestinian talks were suspended in late 2008, when Israel began an election campaign, which ultimately saw Netanyahu replace the centrist Ehud Olmert as prime minister.
The negotiations have not been resumed since Netanyahu was sworn into office at the end of March 2009. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt completely all construction in West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem before talks could be resumed.
Netanyahu declared a 10-month, partial moratorium on settlement construction in late November, but Abbas rejected this as insufficient because it excludes East Jerusalem.
The proximity talks formula was raised by the US as an interim compromise, before direct talks could be held.