Egyptian officials head to Israel to salvage peace talks

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman will travel to Israel this week in an effort to salvage derelict Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Israel's Ynet newspaper reported today.

Suleiman will conduct talks with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, in light of the recent stalemate over Israel's refusal to renew the freeze on West Bank settlement construction.

The Palestinian Authority and Israel resumed direct negotiations in early September, but the talks were called off less than a month later over the settlement issue.

The Palestinians view the presence of 500,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank–including annexed east Jerusalem–as a major obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Suleiman visited Ramallah last week along with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.

The two discussed the renewal of dialogue between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah with President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian sources told Ynet that Egypt supports in principle the Palestinian Authority's stance, which holds that settlement-building will render negotiations extremely difficult. A solution will still be sought, however, according to the sources.

Arab foreign ministers have given Washington until early November to resolve the impasse before they meet to discuss alternatives to the negotiations. But there has been little sign of progress in recent weeks.

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