RAMALLAH, West Bank — The United States seeks a "prompt resumption and early conclusion" of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Washington's special Mideast envoy said after talks Wednesday with Palestinian leaders.
Former Sen. George Mitchell did not give any timetable in his prepared statement to reporters after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
However, the U.S. is engaged in an unusually public spat with Israel over its retreat from commitments to negotiate Palestinian statehood and its insistence on expanding settlements on land the Palestinians claim for that state.
"The only viable resolution to this conflict is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states," Mitchell said. "As President Obama said last week, America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own."
Americans, Europeans, Arabs and others who seek to promote peace "all share an obligation to create the conditions for the prompt resumption and early conclusion of negotiations," he said.
In a landmark speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last week, Obama promised to work aggressively to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Following up on the speech, Mitchell has pressed on with Obama's demands both for a settlement freeze and an endorsement of the concept of a Palestinian state.
Abbas gave Mitchell an itemized list of Israeli settlement expansion and Palestinian homes that Israel has recently demolished in east Jerusalem, the sector of the city the Palestinians claim for a future capital, senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said.
In his meeting Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mitchell sought to allay Israeli fears over the growing rift, assuring Israel that the U.S. commitment to Israeli security was "unshakable."
It remains unclear whether Netanyahu will soften any of his positions in a policy speech he is scheduled to deliver on Sunday. Erekat declined to disclose whether Mitchell brought any indication to Abbas that Netanyahu had modified his stance.
The U.S. knows that when Israel "says it doesn't accept the two-state solution and doesn't want to freeze settlement expansion, that means it says 'no' to resuming negotiations," Erekat said.
Later Wednesday, Mitchell traveled to Cairo, where he met Egypt's foreign minister and powerful intelligence chief, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki.
Mitchell's latest swing through the region is also set to include stops in Lebanon and Syria.