"An ongoing disagreement between Israel and the U.S. over how to resume Mideast peace talks remains unresolved, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
Netanyahu delivered his assessment amid a rush of diplomatic activity aimed at bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
Netanyahu was set to travel to Egypt later Sunday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak, a key mediator between Israel and the Arab world, before meeting Monday with White House Mideast envoy George Mitchell. The U.S. envoy is trying to arrange a summit between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations next week.
Mitchell has been pushing Israel to halt construction in its West Bank settlements, but Netanyahu has resisted, countering with a proposal to limit settlement construction. It remains unclear whether the Americans will accept the Israeli position.
The Palestinians say they will not resume peace talks without a complete freeze. The international community views settlements as obstacles to peace since they are built on territories claimed by the Palestinians for a future independent state.
"There is still work to do," Netanyahu told his Cabinet. "We have made progress on certain items, there are also certain items on which we have yet to make progress. I hope that we will succeed in reducing the gaps. Maybe we will bridge them, so that we can move the process forward."
Mitchell delivered a similar message Sunday, saying that it was premature to talk of any breakthroughs.
"While we have not yet reached agreement on any outstanding issues, we are working hard to do so, and indeed the purpose of my visit here this week is to attempt to do so," he told Israel's ceremonial president, Shimon Peres."
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