Sharm el Sheik, Egypt Under pressure to compromise, Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday dug into the central issues blocking a peace deal but the latest talks produced no visible progress on the divisive issue of Jewish settlements.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held an extra, unscheduled session with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, but there was no word on signs of a breakthrough. After the leaders’ first meeting at this Red Sea resort, U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell offered reporters a mildly positive assessment.
Mitchell said the core issues in the peace process were discussed, but all sides agreed not to reveal which ones or with what results.
“I’m not going to attempt to identify each one that was discussed, but several were in a very serious, detailed and extensive discussion,” Mitchell said at a news conference.
Israeli officials said Sharm el-Sheikh was chosen for Tuesday’s meeting in recognition of Egypt’s key role in regional peace efforts. “We were guests of the Egyptian President Mubarak,” said Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman. “Egypt plays an important role in supporting this process.”
The leaders move on to the holy city of Jerusalem for more discussions today in another symbolic gesture aimed at underscoring the importance of the negotiations, the first direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians in almost two years.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues dividing the two sides. Israel claims the undivided city as its capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern part to be the capital of an eventual state.
Clinton did not comment, but told reporters on the flight to Egypt from Washington on Monday that “the time is ripe” for an agreement based on the notion of a sovereign Palestinian state and a secure Israel.