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Israel says Obama peace envoy could return Sunday - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A Palestinian youth jumps over a burning tire during clashes with Israeli soldiers, not seen, in the West Bank city of Hebron, March 17, 2010 (AP)

A Palestinian youth jumps over a burning tire during clashes with Israeli soldiers, not seen, in the West Bank city of Hebron, March 17, 2010 (AP)

JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East peace envoy may return to the region on Sunday, having postponed his trip over an Israeli settlement plan, an Israeli official said on Thursday.

George Mitchell’s visit had been expected to usher in indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks, but that has been thrown in doubt by Palestinian anger — echoed in Washington — at the blueprint for 1,600 more homes for Jews near East Jerusalem.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s office said he spoke by phone on Wednesday with Mitchell, who had originally planned to come on Tuesday. Barak oversees the occupied West Bank, which abuts East Jerusalem — parts of an envisaged Palestinian state. “They discussed the various means and possibilities for solving the crisis and activating negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” Barak’s office said in a statement. “In addition, the two discussed the possibility of Mitchell arriving this coming Sunday.”

The U.S. embassy said it was aware of the reported conversation but had no information on Mitchell’s travel plans.

A Mitchell mission next week could clash with the scheduled trip by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a meeting of a pro-Israel lobby in Washington. Whether he would also see Obama administration officials has been a matter of speculation.

After an Israel visit last week by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was marred by the settlement announcement, the administration said it had called on the Netanyahu government to show it was committed to peacemaking with the Palestinians.

As of Wednesday, when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton departed for a meeting of international Middle East mediators in Russia, no response had been received from Netanyahu, a State Department spokesman said.

Israeli media reports said Clinton wanted Israel to shelve the housing plan and agree to discuss core statehood issues with the Palestinians once indirect peace talks began. Netanyahu has said he would not curb building for Jews anywhere in Jerusalem.

Palestinian school girls cover their faces from tear gas during clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli troops in Hebron in the occupied West Bank on March 17, 2010 (AFP)

Palestinian school girls cover their faces from tear gas during clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli troops in Hebron in the occupied West Bank on March 17, 2010 (AFP)

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, right, talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres during their meeting in Jerusalem, March 18, 2010 (AP)

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, right, talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres during their meeting in Jerusalem, March 18, 2010 (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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