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U.S. Envoy Says Has 'Good' Meeting With Israelis

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) met with U.S. envoy George Mitchell in London on August 26.
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- The U.S. special envoy seeking to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations has said he had a "good meeting" with two Israeli officials and would continue discussions next week.

The envoy, George Mitchell, met Yitzhak Molcho and Mike Herzog on September 2 to follow up on his meeting in London last week with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on bringing about a freeze on Israeli building of Jewish settlements.

"Senator Mitchell and the Israeli delegation reaffirmed their commitment to comprehensive peace, and concrete steps by all parties toward that goal. We look forward to continuing the discussion when Senator Mitchell returns to the region late next week," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

The Obama administration hopes to announce a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks this month during the UN General Assembly but the pieces have not yet fallen into place, partly because of the dispute over Israeli settlement building.

Palestinian officials say they will resume talks only if Israel stops all building within Jewish enclaves in the West Bank in keeping with a 2003 U.S.-backed peace plan that also called on the Palestinians to rein in attacks on Israelis.

Netanyahu, whose coalition has a strong pro-settler wing, has resisted a total settlement freeze, arguing existing West Bank enclaves need to accommodate growing settler families.

The United States is seeking to bridge the two positions and to persuade Arab states to take steps toward normalizing relations with the Jewish state.

Mitchell is working toward an agreement to resume talks in time for an announcement at the UN General Assembly in late September.