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Quartet envoys meet Netanyahu aide

Envoys of the Mideast Quartet meet with an Israeli official to discuss 'peace' talks ahead of talks in Paris next month

AFP , Thursday 10 Mar 2011
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Envoys of the Middle East Quartet were meeting with Israel's chief peace negotiator on Thursday, as the Israeli entity faced growing pressure to break the logjam in talks with the Palestinians.

Talks with Yitzhak Molcho, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's personal envoy, were being hosted by the US embassy in Israel, with Washington represented by David Hale, assistant to US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, an embassy spokesman told AFP.

"There is a meeting today with the Quartet," embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer said. "We believe that Molcho is there as well and our Quartet envoy David Hale is there."

A European official in Jerusalem said the European Union was represented at the meeting by Helga Schmid, deputy head of the EU's external action service.

Quartet officials were expected to meet chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat in the West Bank town Jericho later on Thursday, Palestinian officials told AFP.

The Quartet is seeking to push the Israeli and Palestinians into renewing some kind of peace negotiations, which ran aground last autumn over an intractable dispute about Israel's illegal settlements.

Leaders of the Quartet - which groups the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - are expected to meet in Paris later this month for talks aimed at jumpstarting the peace process.

Molcho had been due to meet Quartet envoys in Brussels last week, but did not end up going, although Palestinian negotiators did attend the talks which focused on the parameters of a statement to be issued at the end of the Paris meeting, Palestinian officials said.

Since the expiry in September of a temporary ban on settlement building - which Netanyahu refused to extend - the Palestinians have refused all direct contact with the Israelis, saying they will not talk while settlers build on their land.

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