President Barack Obama is to hold a joint meeting with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in an attempt to relaunch the Middle East peace process.
Obama will hold separate talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before they all sit down together. Efforts to restart negotiations have so far been thwarted by disagreements over the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The meeting — the first between the three men — will be held in New York at the same time the UN General Assembly convenes. US Special Envoy George Mitchell has just ended a week of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, but headed home with little to show for his efforts. Earlier today, the leader of Hamas in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh denounced news of the joint meeting. “No one is authorised, not the Palestinian Authority nor anyone else, to sign any agreement…” Netanyahu has offered to suspend building in the West Bank for nine months. But, the Palestinians reject his insistence on excluding East Jerusalem from any freeze.