No sign impasse is resolved as Clinton ends Mideast trip
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday wrapped up three days of intense Middle East diplomacy that produced good atmospherics but no sign that an impasse over Israeli settlement construction has been resolved.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said before meeting with Clinton in this West Bank city that both sides recognize there is "no alternative" to continuing peace efforts. But he gave little sign that he is willing to keep talks going after a partial moratorium on Israeli construction expires Sept. 30.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told Israel Television that he had asked Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to extend the moratorium by three months, allowing time for borders to be negotiated.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu told Abbas that the moratorium would not be extended, Israeli media reported. The prime minister's office repeated that position in a statement Thursday.
But Netanyahu has indicated that some restrictions on construction will be applied, and U.S. officials are hoping that the momentum of the past few days will persuade the Palestinians to keep talking, even if the settlement freeze is not extended in full.
Clinton met later with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman before flying home. Her Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, traveled on to Syria and Lebanon to brief leaders on the talks.
- Glenn Kessler