US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell met Tuesday morning with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, but failed to reach an agreement on a three-way meeting between Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama during the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.
An official at the Prime Minister's Office said, however, that the sides had made additional progress, likely referring to the settlement construction issue. The US has demanded that Israel freeze the construction for a year, while Israel is ready to freeze it for only six months.
Mitchell and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet once again on Wednesday morning.
The US envoy said ahead of Tuesday's meeting that he hoped to finally reach agreements in order to move on to the next stage, and perhaps even hold a three-way meeting in New York next week.
Netanyahu told Mitchell, "We extend our hand to the Palestinians in search of peace. We hope for prosperity and security in our region."
The prime minister thanked the American envoy for taking part in the funeral of Captain Asaf Ramon on Monday, together with the US Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham.
After the meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, Mitchell is expected to travel to Ramallah for a meeting with Abbas, in order to try and convince him to join a three-way meeting with Netanyahu and Obama.
Netanyahu is reserving the option to fly out to New York earlier than next Wednesday, as originally planned.
Tuesday's meeting (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
In Ramallah, Mitchell is expected to hear that the Palestinians have no plans to be the first to waive their stances as well, just like Netanyahu. PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday night that the Palestinian Authority would not accept any compromise on the settlements.
PA officials have expressed their hope that Mitchell's visit would start-up the negotiations based on the international understanding that the settlements are the real obstacle to peace talks.