Netanyahu, Mitchell Report 'Good' Meeting

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LONDON - Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell described their four-hour meeting in London on Monday as "good."

Following the meeting, they issued a joint statement, saying they had made "progress" on key issues that would lead to restarting talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Both sides need to take practical steps toward furthering the peace," the statement read.

Before the meeting, Netanyahu said Israel and the U.S. were working on an understanding regarding construction in existing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

"We are making headway," he said. "My government has taken steps in both words and deeds to move forward."

Netanyahu said he is hopeful that talks would resume shortly.

On Tuesday, following his meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Netanyahu said Jerusalem is Israel's capital and construction in its neighborhoods would continue.

"[Jerusalem] is not a settlement. It is the sovereign capital of the State of Israel. We have been building in Jerusalem for 3,000 years," the prime minister said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority officials said Wednesday that PA President Mahmoud Abbas would be willing to meet with Netanyahu next month in New York at the opening of United Nations General Assembly.

Abbas had said he would not meet with Netanyahu until Israel agreed to stop all construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The PA officials said a meeting in New York would not signal a resumption of peace talks but rather "a chance to talk" because Abbas had not dropped his demand for a full settlement freeze as a precondition for restarting negotiations.

Speaking at the National Palestinian Council on Wednesday, Abbas said he would not resume talks as long as there is any construction in Israeli settlements.

"We are determined to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital on the territory that was occupied in June 1967," Abbas told his colleagues.

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