BEIT-UL-MOQADDAS, Jan 25 (Dispatches) – US President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East will go to the Israeli-occupied territories Wednesday for talks on keeping alive a fragile Gaza cease-fire and reviving Mideast negotiations, a Zionist foreign ministry official said Saturday.
It is the new administration's first direct move into Mideast peace efforts.
George J. Mitchell will meet with Zionist Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior Zionist officials, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because Washington has not officially announced the trip.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced Mitchell in his new role Thursday. His appointment is seen as signaling a renewed push under the Obama administration for a resolution to the Arab-Zionist conflict.
Mitchell will also visit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at their headquarters in the West Bank, the official said.
The official said Mitchell will discuss restarting Zionist-Palestinian peace talks after Israel's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, and ways to impose an effective arms blockade against the Hamas who rule Gaza and have been firing rockets into Israel for years.
The arms embargo and the opening of the blockaded territory's borders are key to sustaining separate cease-fires by Zionists and Hamas.
In Washington, the White House and State Department declined to comment, but diplomats familiar with Mitchell's travel plans said he would visit Israel and the West Bank with possible stops in Egypt and Jordan on a tour that could last eight to 10 days.
His exact itinerary is not yet settled, the diplomats said, but he will be working to secure an Israel-Hamas cease-fire, improve the humanitarian situation for Gazans and gauge prospects for continuing the peace process.
George Mitchell, US President Barack Obama's newly named Special Envoy to the Middle East, stands after the announcement at the State Department in Washington, DC.
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