CAIRO, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The second round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks Tuesday in Egypt did not lead to a break over Jewish settlements, but the U.S. envoy said he was encouraged.
George Mitchell, President Obama's special representative to the Middle East, said he was encouraged by the overall direction of the talks while declining to say whether any progress was made over Israel's moratorium on settlement construction set to expire Sept. 26.
"We continue our efforts to make progress, and we believe that we are moving in the right direction overall," Mitchell told reporters.
U.S. opposition to Israel's settling of Jews in East Jerusalem remains unchanged, Mitchell said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to extend the building freeze in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to walk out if construction in the settlements is renewed and Netanyahu has yet to make a clear statement on whether the freeze will be extended.
Netanyahu and Abbas agree that negotiations can be completed within one year, Mitchell said. The two leaders will meet Wednesday in Jerusalem.
"As President Obama said just recently, we think it makes sense to extend the moratorium. especially given that the talks are moving in a constructive direction.," the envoy said. "We know that this is a politically sensitive issue in Israel. And we have also called on President Abbas to take steps that help encourage and facilitate this process. We believe that both sides have a responsibility to help ensure that these talks continue in a constructive manner."
The two leaders "also reiterated their intent to approach these negotiations in good faith and with a seriousness of purpose," Mitchell said. "They repeated their condemnation of all forms of violence that target innocent civilians and pledged to work together to maintain security."
All parties at the table in the Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheik "reaffirmed our commitment to reaching a shared goal of a just, lasting, and secure peace," Mitchell said. "Our common goal remains two states for two peoples. And we are committed to a solution to the conflict that resolves all issues for the state of Israel and a sovereign, independent, and viable state of Palestine living side by side in peace and security."
The two leaders also agreed that their negotiators would meet "in the coming days" to press ahead with the talks and lay the groundwork for the next round of discussions at the leadership level.
"These face-to-face talks are critical for both sides to continue to build trust and confidence," Mitchell said.
He reiterated that U.S. pledges of full support for the parties in the talks.
"We will put our full weight behind these negotiations," Mitchell said, "and will stand by the parties as they make the difficult decisions necessary to secure a better future for their citizens."