Mitchell Arrives for One-Day Visit

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Obama administration Middle East envoy George Mitchell arrived on Monday evening for a two-day visit to the region.

Mitchell is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday before travelling to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

So far as anyone knows, Abbas has no plans to enter direct talks with Netanyahu, despite international pressure and a green light from the Arab League.

While Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip, openly opposes negotiations with Israel, members of Abbas' Fatah faction are also urging him not to enter direct talks.

"We refuse to enter direct talks without agreement on the terms of reference, a timetable and a mechanism for implementing [it]," read a joint statement by Fatah and other Palestinian organizations in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

"We also demand an active international role and U.S. assurances, as well as an Israeli commitment to abide by international law and United Nations resolutions," the statement read.

Once Israel agrees to the PA's demands, including but not limited to a halt to all construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem and acceptance of the pre-1967 armistice lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state, Abbas said he would enter direct negotiations.

Netanyahu for his part will not accept any preconditions nor will his government extend the 10-month construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria, which ends September 26.

Mitchell may visit Egypt and Saudi Arabia to discuss the stalemate before returning to the U.S.

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