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Netanyahu, Abbas Meet Mubarak in Cairo

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak separately on Sunday, after Mubarak conferred with US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell on a push for direct talks between the two men.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who are holding US-brokered indirect talks, did not make any statements after the meetings.

The official MENA news agency said Mubarak affirmed to Netanyahu the “necessity of preparing the right conditions to achieve the vision of a two state solution on the ground.”

Mubarak, who publicly supports Palestinian conditions for resuming direct talks with Israel that were suspended 18 months ago, first hosted Mitchell, who met with Netanyahu in occupied Jerusalem earlier in the day.

Netanyahu told reporters before flying to Cairo that he would discuss the prospects for direct talks with Mubarak.

Abbas agreed to the indirect talks in May after face-to-face negotiations broke off in December 2008 following a devastating Israeli military offensive against Gaza.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa said on Sunday that Palestinians could not move to from indirect to direct talks with Israel without written guarantees. “We cannot automatically move from one negotiation to another without written guarantees,” said Mussa, whose 22-member pan-Arab organization backed indirect talks between Israel and Palestinians in May, after meeting Mitchell.

Mussa, who met with Abbas on Saturday, said he thought the Palestinian leader was committed to Arab League conditions for resuming direct talks, which include an end to settlement building in occupied Palestinian lands. “I felt the Palestinian president was committed to the decisions of the ministerial council that the automatic transition from indirect to direct negotiations is not feasible,” he said.

Senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo called for greater clarity from Washington about its position on new negotiations, insisting that the Palestinians wanted to address the core issues of the Middle East conflict. “Until now there is no clarity in the (US) position on a number of issues, especially those related to moving into final status talks,” Abed Rabbo told reporters.

“The three-hour meeting between Abbas and Mitchell was important but there are several issues, most important among them the settlements and the situation in Jerusalem, that need more clarity,” Abed Rabbo said.

The Palestinians have long demanded a complete freeze on Israeli settlement expansion ahead of direct talks and have accused Israel of undermining the process by approving new settler homes in occupied east Jerusalem.

As on previous visits, Mitchell himself declined to discuss the details of his talks, saying only that it was a “very productive” meeting and that US President Barack Obama remained committed to a two-state peace deal.

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