US envoy Mitchell begins Middle East peace mission

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US envoy Mitchell begins Middle East peace mission

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US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has told both Israelis and Palestinians that President Obama wants a peace deal soon, not at some vague future date.

He met Israeli President Shimon Peres and, separately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at loggerheads with the US over Israeli settlements.

Peres said Israel needed a Palestinian state.

“We need a Palestinian state for moral reasons, because we don’t want to govern another nation, but also for a pragmatic reason: we don’t want to see the conflict eating up our future. There is no need for it and there is no other solution.”

Mitchell also went to Ramallah in the West Bank, looking to coax the Palestinians and President Mahmoud Abbas to resume negotiations. They pulled out of indirect proximity talks over the settlements issue.

The envoy told the Palestinian leader that the United States shared his commitment to achieving an independent state.

“The United States is committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East,” said Mitchell. “That includes a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states, Israel and Palestine.”

Mitchell has visited the region more than a dozen times in a year with no breakthrough. Palestinian demands for a total Israeli settlement freeze have again been rejected by Prime Minister Netanyahu. He is to hold more talks with the US envoy on Sunday.