George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, said on Wednesday that Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations should take no longer than two years and could be finished sooner than that.
Mitchell said in an interview on the "Charlie Rose" television program on PBS he plans to return to the region in the next few days and hopes to make progress on political, security and economic tracks of the peace process.
"We think that the negotiation should last no more than two years, once begun we think it can be done within that period of time," Mitchell said. "We hope the parties agree. Personally I think it can be done in a shorter period of time."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signaled on Monday that he is considering a proposal to relaunch stalled Middle East peace talks at a US-backed summit with Israeli and Egyptian leaders early in the new year.
Israel, Egypt and the United States want Abbas to reopen talks, but he refuses as long as Israel refuses to agree to a permanent freeze on construction in Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in east Jerusalem.
Mitchell, who shuttled to the Middle East a dozen times in 2009, also helped broker a peace accord in Northern Ireland.