Photo: AFP
Peres returns to work (archives)
Photo: AFP
Peres urges Mitchell to launch peace talks
President meets with US special envoy, tells him 'we must not let the month of September pass without a new beginning and starting negotiations'
Less than 24 hours after collapsing and being hospitalized for a series of examinations, President Shimon Peres met Sunday evening with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.


During their meeting at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, Peres said that "we must not let the month of September pass without a new beginning and starting negotiations."


At the start of the meeting, Mitchell delivered to Peres speedy recovery wishes from US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom he said admire and respect the Israeli president and share his goals. "It's a pleasure seeing you strong and healthy," he added.


Peres also addressed his medical condition and the public interest following his collapse, saying, "I got so many greetings. I thank everyone for the interest and encouragement."


Representatives of many media outlets arrived at the President's Residence to inquire on the president's health. Peres, on his part, did not elaborate about his condition and moved on to address diplomatic issues.


"I believe there is a good chance to resume negotiations before the end of the month. This is everyone's interest," he said. "After talking to many of the relevant elements, including the Palestinians, I believe this is the right time. There are several key differences, but they are bridgeable. We must not miss the opportunity."


According to the president, "We must act dynamically. Perhaps we can prepare the ground so that by the end of the month or beforehand there will be a start of negotiations."


'We're in complete agreement with Obama'

Mitchell responded by saying that the US shares Peres' sense of urgency and faith, and that efforts are being made to bridge all the obstacles. He added that that was the goal of his visit and that he plans to finalize a stage of discussions in the timeframe suggested by the Israeli president.


Peres also asked Mitchell to deliver a calming message to the American president ahead of the United Nations General Assembly, which will be held in New York at the end of the month.


"Contrary to things reported by the media, we are in complete agreement with Obama. Even if there is a dispute or two, these are concrete things which do not carry a strategic nature."


Hours before his expected meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak telephoned Peres to inquire about his condition.


"I heard this morning that you returned home from the hospital, and I was very happy about it. I wish you good health and a long life," Mubarak said, Peres replied by saying, "Dear friend, I thank you for your call and am happy you are meeting with the Israeli prime minister later today."


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