Archive for Palestinian Authority

UN urges Israel to unfreeze Palestinian funds

Posted in Fatah, Hamas, Israel, Palestine, Peace process with tags , , , , , , on 06/05/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 6th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Israel blocked transfer of $105m in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel should not withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority following its unity deal with Hamas.

In telephone talks with Netanyahu on Friday, Ban reaffirmed UN support for Palestinian unity under the leadership of Abbas and called on the Israeli prime minister to give the deal a chance to lead to an historic peace accord.

“The Secretary-General … noted that Palestinian unity is a process which is just beginning now, and thus, it would be best to assess it as it moves forward,” the UN press office said in a statement summarising Ban’s telephone call with Netanyahu.

“He also urged Israel not to stop transferring tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority,” it said.

Israel on Sunday blocked the transfer of $105 million in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, following a deal to reunite the two rival wings of the Palestinian independence movement.

Palestinians see reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas as crucial for their drive for an independent state in territories Israel occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Israel has condemned the unity pact as a “tremendous blow to peace.”

Ban told Netanyahu “he hoped Israel will make decisive moves towards a historic agreement with the Palestinians,” said Nesirky.

“The secretary general said it was urgent to overcome the impasse in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Continued drifting will not serve the interests of both parties.”

“(Ban) said he was convinced that realizing a negotiated two-state solution as soon as possible is in the best interest of both the Israeli and Palestinian people,” the statement added.

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Palestinian factions in reconciliation bid

Posted in Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israel, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 28/04/2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Fatah and Hamas agree to form interim government and fix general election date following talks in Cairo.

Fatah, the Palestinian political organisation, has reached an agreement with its rival Hamas on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election, Egyptian intelligence has said.

In February, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a member of Fatah, called for presidential and legislative elections before September, in a move which was rejected by Hamas at the time.

Abbas signalled on Thursday that peace talks with Israel would still be possible during the term of a new interim government formed as part of a unity deal with Hamas.

Abbas said the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which he heads and to which Hamas does not belong, would still be responsible for “handling politics, negotiations”.

He was speaking for the first time since the unity deal was unveiled in Cairo on Wednesday.

The deal, which took many officials by surprise, was thrashed out in Egypt and followed a series of secret meetings.

“The consultations resulted in full understandings over all points of discussions, including setting up an interim agreement with specific tasks and to set a date for election,” Egyptian intelligence said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The two sides signed initial letters on an agreement. All points of differences have been overcome,” Taher Al-Nono, a Hamas government spokesman in Gaza, told the Reuters news agency.

He said that Cairo would shortly invite both sides to a signing ceremony.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Gaza, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said: “I think we are optimistic because … there is [an] official agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and I think we now have [an] impressive jump to the Palestinian unity.

“Maybe it does not come as a shock because I think it came as a fruit of long talks and discussion.

“I think that today we became very close to this agreement, we have finished some points. It is like [an] outline draft and I think it will be a good beginning.

“Maybe after that we will start on how to implement this agreement to be translated and practised on the ground.”

‘Geopolitical situation’

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: “It is important news … the geopolitical situation wasn’t exactly helpful [to reconciliation] and then we went through six months of upheavals, certainly sweeping through Egypt.

“At the end, you could say that President Abbas has lost his patron in Egypt, which is President Mubarak, and Hamas is more on less facing almost similar trouble now, with Bashar al-Assad [Syria’s president] facing his own trouble in Damascus.

“So with the US keeping a distance and Israel not delivering the goods on the peace process and the settlements, it was time for Palestinians to come together and agree on what they basically agreed on almost a year and a half ago.”

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said on Wednesday that Abbas could not hope to forge a peace deal with Israel if he pursued a reconciliation accord with Hamas.

“The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” he said.

In his televised statement, Netanyahu said Israel could not accept Hamas as a negotiating partner because it “aspires to destroy Israel, it says so publicly, it fires rockets on our cities, it fires anti-tank rockets on our children.”

He said that the surprise announcement of a reconciliation deal “exposes the Palestinian Authority’s weakness”.

And on Thursday, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister said the deal marks the “crossing of a red line”.

Lieberman warned that the accord could lead to the militant group’s takeover of the Fatah-run West Bank.

But top Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdaineh said the reconciliation did not concern Israel.

“The agreement between Fatah and Hamas movements is an internal affair and has nothing to do with Israel. Netanyahu must choose between a just peace with the united Palestinian people … and settlements,” Abu Rdaineh said.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported from Ramallah that “a lot of people would say that this was really an empty kind of ultimatum – what peace process, or what peace deal, is prime minister Netanyahu actually talking about?

“The peace process very much took a hit in the last few months. There has been no peace process taking place between the Palestinian Authority and Israel because of Israel’s insistence on building on land that is being negotiated on.

“So I think many months back, the PA and Fatah decided to take their own route, away from this peace process, away from US mediation and try to really go it alone.”

The US is reviewing further reports on details of the reconciliation, and while it supports Palestinian reconciliation, Hamas remains “a terrorist organisation which targets civilians”, Tommy Vietor, US National Security Council spokesman, said.

“To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Hamas does not recognise Israel as a state.

‘Bitter split’

Fatah holds power in the occupied West Bank while Hamas, which won the last parliamentary election in 2006, routed Abbas’ forces in 2007 to seize control of the Gaza Strip.

Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said: “This effectively will be ending a bitter split that Palestinians have been witnessing since 2007.

Rageh said the deal was expected to be signed next week and would be attended by Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who is based in Damascus.

Nicole Johnston, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, said: “One of the main civil society groups here is calling on all Palestinian factions to head down to the main square in Gaza City, the square of the unknown soldier, to begin the celebrations.

“It seems certainly in Gaza that there’s a need for some good news. It’s been a pretty rough month here in a lot of respects, an escalation of violence with Israel, the kidnapping and murder of a foreigner.

“So really, this kind of news … is a call for celebration.”

Wednesday’s accord was first reported by Egypt’s intelligence service, which brokered the talks.

In a statement carried by Egyptian state news agency MENA, the intelligence service said the deal was agreed by a Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the group’s politburo, and Fatah central committee member Azzam al-Ahmad.

Al-Ahmad and Abu Marzouk said the agreement covered all points of contention, including forming a transitional government, security arrangements and the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to allow Hamas to join it.

Speaking on Egyptian state television, al-Ahmad said a general election would take place within a year.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of Hamas, said all prisoners with a non-criminal background would be released.

No Gaza optimism over easing blockade

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , on 20/06/2010 by 3071km

Written by Jon Donnison

Date published: Sunday 20th June 2010

Source: BBC News

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Fishing boats in Gaza City's harbour

“I don’t need ketchup or mayonnaise from Israel. I need my business back,” says Nasser al-Helo standing on a busy street in Gaza City.

Mr Helo used to run a business making steel doors in the Gaza Strip. Before the blockade he was able to import metal from Israel and would produce more than 300 doors a month.

“Now, it’s a big zero,” he says. “I’ve lost $300,000 in the past three years.”

Private industry has been devastated by Israel’s blockade, which was tightened in 2007 after the Islamist group Hamas seized control of the coastal territory.

Factories making anything from furniture to textiles, floor tiles to biscuits have gone under.

The Israeli blockade has starved them of the raw materials they need to produce their goods.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. The United Nations estimates unemployment is at 40% in Gaza. Mr Helo used to employ 32 people at his factory. Now there are only four.

‘Not enough’

The overwhelming feeling among Gazans is that Israel’s announcement on Thursday that it is “easing the blockade” is simply not enough.

Omar Shabban

The details of how the blockade will be “liberalised” are still not clear, but reportedly the Israeli authorities will allow more civilian goods to enter, including all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels. Construction materials for civilian projects will be allowed in under international supervision.

“Of course it’s not enough,” says Omar Shabban, an economist at the Gaza-based think tank PalThink.

“What about the blockade on people for starters?” he asks.

“One-and-a-half million people are trapped in a prison unable to leave.”

Israel maintains tight control of the border with Gaza, only allowing out a limited number of people to seek medical treatment. Israel says this is needed to protect itself from “terrorist” attacks.

The Rafah crossing into Egypt has also been closed since 2007, although special medical cases are also sporadically allowed to pass through it.

Desperate vendors

Mr Shabban argues that what is really needed in Gaza is not a few more food items – many of which are already available through smuggling tunnels running under the Egyptian border – but a total lifting of the blockade to allow people to work in Israel, as over 100,000 people used to do.

GOODS ALLOWED INTO GAZA

Coriander

  • Canned meat and tuna, but not canned fruit
  • Mineral water, but not fruit juice
  • Sesame paste (tahini) but not jam
  • Tea and coffee but not chocolate
  • Cinnamon but not coriander

Details of Gaza blockade revealed

Gaza also used to export many goods to Israel and beyond. Strawberries and flowers are still two of Gaza’s most famous products, but most of them never get beyond the barrier into Israel.

Instead, in strawberry season in January they are sold dirt-cheap off huge wheelbarrows on street corners, the vendors desperate to sell them at any price before they rot.

Israel has argued that the blockade is necessary to put pressure on Hamas.

The group came out top in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, but the EU, the US and Israel refused to recognise Hamas in government unless it renounced violence and its commitment to destroy Israel.

Then in June 2007, Hamas ousted its secular rival, Fatah, and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority security forces from Gaza.

Rockets

Over the past decade, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing more than 20 Israelis.

Man selling strawberries in Gaza

But since Israel’s major offensive on Gaza in 2009, which devastated the territory and left more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead, the number has dropped dramatically. One person – a Thai farm worker – has been killed in southern Israel by a rocket fired from Gaza in the past 12 months.

Hamas has tried to rein in rocket fire, but it does not control all the militant groups in Gaza and sporadic, usually ineffective rocket fire continues.

Israel says it is the responsibility of the Hamas authorities to stop all rocket attacks, and that the blockade is necessary to stop weapons being brought into Gaza.

But at least until now the list of items banned from entering Gaza has gone far beyond weapons. Coriander, chocolate and children’s toys have famously been excluded.

Low expectations

In actual fact, such things are readily available in the supermarkets in Gaza.

Millions of dollars worth of goods are smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt.

Butcher in Gaza City

There is food on the shelves and in the markets but the blockade means it is too expensive for most people to afford. A kilo of beef smuggled from Egypt costs around $15, more than most Gazans earn in a day.

“We are living on a black-market economy,” says Mr Shabban.

Gazans have little faith in Israel’s announcement. At best, they will wait and see if anything changes in the coming weeks and months.

Indeed, like most places in the world, people here are more preoccupied with the World Cup. The cafes of Gaza City on Friday were full of people cheering on Algeria as they thrashed out a dire draw with England.

The beaches in Gaza are packed this weekend with thousand of children enjoying summer camps and frolicking in the Mediterranean Sea.

But as they play in the water, a reminder that the blockade of Gaza is still very much in place – the sound of machine-gun fire just a few kilometres off the coast.

Israeli navy ships, which continue to occupy and control Gaza’s territorial water, regularly open fire on Palestinian fishing boats that stray beyond the limits of where Israel allows them to fish.

Yet most of the children did not even bat an eyelid at the gunfire.

The blockade here has been come a way of life. Few people are optimistic that will change.

KEY ENTRY POINTS INTO GAZA

map of Gaza showing key entry points• Rafah – under Egyptian control. Since flotilla deaths, opened indefinitely for people only. Has been closed for the vast majority of the time over the last three years. Makeshift tunnels in this area used to smuggle in goods, including weapons

• Erez – under Israeli control. Crossing for pedestrians and cargo. Access restricted to Palestinians under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and to Egyptians or international aid officials

• Karni – main crossing point for commercial goods

• Sufa – official crossing point for construction materials

• Kerem Shalom – for commercial and humanitarian goods. These last three crossings have been frequently closed by Israeli army since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007

• Opening of seaport and bus routes to West Bank had been agreed in 2005 but plans since shelved

• Airport – bombed by Israel in early years of the 2000 Intifada

• ‘Buffer zone’ inside Gaza where it borders Israel. Gazan farmers forbidden to enter the zone

Abbas seen as a traitor: “not backing the UN war report is a ‘scandal'”

Posted in Fatah, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, International community, Palestine, Peace process, Pictures, USA foreign policy, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , on 12/10/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Monday 12th October 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Palestinian unity hopes dim

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A reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the rival Palestinian parties, has been delayed, following a bitter dispute over the Palestinian decision not to back a UN report on alleged Israeli war crimes.

The deal was to be signed on October 25, clearing the way for Hamas and Fatah to co-operate in rebuilding war-damaged Gaza by preparing for Palestinian elections in the first half of 2010.

Speaking of his disappointment to Al Jazeera on Monday, Mustafa Barghouthi – an independent member of the Palestinian parliament – said he believed Fatah and Hamas had turned a UN war-crimes report into a party-political issue, rather than into an honest attempt to seek justice.

The report, drawn up by a team of experts led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge, accuses Israel of using disproportionate force and failing to protect civilians during its bombardment of Gaza at the end of 2008.

Palestinian party politics

Barghouti said: “What is most unfortunate is that the Goldstone report should have been a unifying issue for all Palestinians … to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes.

“What we see is that both Fatah and Hamas are making this into a party-political issue. This should stop.”

The two sides have been divided since Hamas, which commanded a majority in parliament, seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.Following the takeover, there have been rival Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank.

With mediation from Egypt, the parties have been trying to broker a deal to reconcile and establish a power-sharing agreement.

But Hamas said on its website on Sunday that it was postponing the agreement because of a much-criticised decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by President Mahmoud Abbas, to delay action on the Goldstone report.

‘Crime and scandal’

Seven Palestinian groups joined Hamas leaders based in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday in issuing a statement of support for the postponement of the reconciliation deal.

They called Abbas’s decision to freeze action on the UN report a “crime and scandal”.

The groups emphasised the importance of reconciliation but said Abbas’s actions should not go unpunished.

In a televised speech from the conference in Damascus, Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, spelled out his party’s position.”When Goldstone investigated the criminal aggression by Israel against Gaza, this was an opportunity to indict Israel,” he said.

“But this group of Palestinian leaders [Fatah leadership] withdrew the report. This is the Goldstone scandal. A courageous leadership is a leadership that is frank with its people.

“Those who are accumulating political mistakes are today continuing their lies. This is not a leadership that deserves to be entrusted with the leadership of the Palestinians.

The Goldstone report recommended that the UN Security Council require both sides to carry out credible investigations into alleged abuses during the conflict – in which 13 Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilian women and children, were killed.

Israel has rejected the report’s allegations while the US has called it deeply flawed.

But many Palestinians, and not just Hamas members, were outraged after Abbas withdrew Palestinian support for having the UN Human Rights Council forward the report to the 192-nation General Assembly for possible action.

In reaction, Abbas gave his own speech on Sunday in Ramallah – saying Hamas had its own reasons for not wanting to sign a reconciliation agreement.”This campaign by Hamas is aimed at serving their interests, which is to postpone the signing of the reconciliation agreement,” he said.

“They want to concentrate their rule and their regime in Gaza. They want to ensure the continuity of division in Gaza, that aims at weakening the Palestinian Authority.”

Unity ‘efforts continuing’

Some Palestinian parliamentarians are still hopeful that a reconciliation agreement might be reached by October 25.

Barghouti, the Palestinian politician, said despite the public media attacks, unity efforts are continuing.

“The Egyptians have provided a final copy of the agreement for reconciliation. And hopefully, by the 20th of this month, all parties will sign this agreement in preparation for a ceremony that would declare unity,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Delaying the Goldstone report vote would never have happened if we had had a united Palestinian leadership.

“Given that Israel has arrested large numbers of parliamentary members, the parliament is paralysed and unable to function – so this agreement needs to happen.”

But other Palestinians say the chances of national unity are slim.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Monday, Azzam Tamimi, author of Hamas: Unwritten Chapters, said saving the reconciliation process while Abbas remains president is almost impossible.

“The overwhelming opinion in the Palestinian street now is that Abbas is a complete traitor. There is no coming back from that,” he said.

“And what makes this worse is the reality that, despite much hope for change with a new US government under President Barack Obama, it seems clear now that it was American pressure that forced Abbas not to back the UN war report.”

Tamimi said Washington’s policy towards the whole Palestine issue “has not changed, despite a new set of faces in the White House”.

Hamas-Fatah deal ‘to be delayed’

Posted in Fatah, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, International community, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, War crimes with tags , , , , , , on 12/10/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Sunday 11th October 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Egypt’s foreign minister has said that a unity deal between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah could be delayed until November.

Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Sunday that a senior Hamas delegation had asked Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief, for postponement of the deal scheduled to be signed on October 25.

The request followed heightened tensions between Hamas and Fatah over a UN-sponsored report on war crimes committed during Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip last winter.

The report authored by Richard Goldstone heavily criticised Isreal for “terrorising and targeting” civilians between last December and January.

Hamas also came in for criticism in the 575-page report.

About 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the conflict.

Hamas, the group which runs the Gaza Strip, has castigated Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah and the president of the Palestinian Authority which rules the occupied West Bank, over the delay in endorsing Goldstone’s report at the UN Human Rights Council.

Endorsement of the report could have facilitated the eventual prosecution of Israeli officials responsible for the atrocities.

Hamas said that the decision “betrayed” the Palestinian victims of the offensive.

The long-delayed Palestinian deal would allow for co-operation in reconstruction of the Gaza Strip that was heavily bombarded in the offensive and prepare for elections in the first six months of 2010.

Tensions between Hamas and Fatah have been high since the former won parliamentary polls in January 2006 and then expelled pro-Fatah forces from Gaza in June 2007.

UN delay on Gaza report condemned

Posted in Activism, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, History, International community, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Pictures, Siege, USA foreign policy, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/10/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Sunday 4th October 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Dahlan called for a probe by the PLO into  the
decision to delay the vote [GALLO/GETTY]

Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have condemned the decision by the UN to defer voting on the Goldstone report, that highlighted war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the formers’ offensive on the territory in December.

The factions, including Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad, met in Gaza City on Sunday and will form a joint committee to investigate why the vote was delayed.

Bassem Khuri, the Palestinian economy minister, resigned on Saturday, reportedly in protest at the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) agreement not to discuss the document.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) postponed a vote to endorse the report until March after Pakistan made a request to do so on the behest of several Arab, African and Muslim nations.

The 575-page report by Richard Goldstone, a South African ex-judge appointed by the UN, blames both the Israelis and Hamas for war crimes, but is more critical of Israeli troops for “targeting and terrorising civilians”.

‘US pressure’

Media reports said that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) delegation to the UNHRC had attempted to prevent discussion of the report under US pressure.

There are no members of Hamas – the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip – on the delegation.

Earlier on Sunday, Mohammed Dahlan, a member of Fatah’s central council, asked the PLO Executive Committee for an official probe into the reasons for the delay in the vote.

“We call on the Palestine Liberation Organisation to form an investigation committee into the causes of asking for a postponement to reach the truth about the situation and it is important to listen to Ambassador Khreisheh [the Palestinian representative at the UN in Geneva] because this is not related to the ambassador but rather to policies,” Dahlan said.

He welcomed the report and praised its content and the integrity of the author.

He said that the Goldstone report is a “substantial national issue that relatively vindicated the Palestinian people and condemned the [Israeli] occupation and its policies”.

‘Defeatist’

Other PLO factions, parliamentary groups and human rights organisations have been criticising the vote delay.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called the step “defeatist” while the secretary general of the People’s Party called for an official investigation.

A joint statement by 14 human rights organisations, called “Justice Postponed is Justice Denied”, was also released, harshly criticising the Palestinian leadership’s conduct on the issue.

The Goldstone report, released last month, investigated the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip last December and January.

About 1,300 Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks, while 13 Israelis died due to incidents related to the war.

Many analysts have said that Washington sees the findings of the report as complicating the advancement of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

US and Israel seek settlements plan

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27/08/2009 by 3071km

Date Published: 27 August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English
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Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has said progress is being made towards restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.

His comments came after talks in London with George Mitchell, the Obama administration’s Middle East envoy, which both described as “very productive”.

During four hours of talks the two discussed the issue of Israeli settlements as a major hurdle to the peace process.

A joint statement released after the meeting said an Israeli delegation would visit the US next week to follow up on the talks, although it did not elaborate on any measures Mitchell and Netanyahu may have agreed to.

According to the statement the two parties “agreed on the importance of restarting meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and working toward a comprehensive peace, and that all sides need to take concrete steps toward peace.”

However, Israel has resisted calls from Barack Obama, the US president, to freeze settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

A freeze is key to the resumption of peace talks, and Israel’s reluctance to budge on the issue has led to a rare rift in US-Israeli relations.

Iran ‘deal’

Mitchell has been pressing Israel to halt construction as a confidence-building gesture to the Palestinians.

According to some media reports he was expected to offer Netanyahu a tougher US line on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for Israel partially freezing settlement building.

Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported that the US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the UN to include Iran’s oil and gas industry in sanctions against the country, a move that could cripple its economy.

An Israeli delegation is due to meet Mitchell next week in the US to continue the talks.

Alastair Crooke, a Middle East analyst who has worked with Mitchell, told Al Jazeera: “I’m sure that Mitchell doesn’t want to get stuck in this single issue for the next month, because the Americans have a deadline.

“They are really keen to get progress on the Palestinian issue before they leave Iraq in the interests of Israeli security.”

After meeting Mitchell in London, Netanyahu, who is on a four-day European tour, flew to Berlin where he met Horst Koehler, the German president, ahead of talks with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

Abbas ‘meeting’

Following the talks in London, Mark Regev, an Israeli spokesman, said an agreement with Washington which would allow peace talks to resume could come within weeks.

“The goal is to find common ground with the American administration … on a framework that will allow the restarting of an energised peace process,” he said.

“For that process to be meaningful, the Arab world has to be part of it.”

Israeli media reports have suggested that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, will meet Netanyahu on the sidelines of next month’s meeting of the United Nations in New York.

In Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian official, said: “No one, neither from the Israelis nor from the United States contacted us for such a meeting but it could happen as a meeting but not as holding negotiations.

“What counts is to hold negotiations.”

Peace talks

Settlements in the West Bank, which Palestinians want for a future state, are home to 300,000 Israelis, and around 2.5million Palestinians.

Obama has said he opposes all settlement construction, while Abbas has staunchly refused to reopen peace talks until Netanyahu halts all settlement activity.

A survey released on Wednesday showed freezing settlements would be an unpopular move among Jewish Israelis, with almost two-thirds of those questioned by the Maagar Mohot polling company saying they opposed the move.

Netanyahu has said he sees the emphasis on settlements as unfair, and insisted conflict in the Middle East is rooted in Arab enmity towards Israel.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that a settlement agreement is indispensible to a peace deal because it prevents a “Palestinian independent contiguous state from emerging”.

However, he said that there had been little progress in Wednesday’s meeting.

“After nine months of telling Israel that they must stop the settlements, an entire government telling the American envoy in London today that they won’t stop the settlement building within the settlements. That is a failure of a meeting.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said that his government was unwilling to negotiate on the status of Jerusalem as a joint Israel-Palestinian capital.

Speaking in London at his meeting with Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, he had also said that any peace talks with the Palestinians would have to cover the issue of a “demilitarised Palestine”, as well as illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.