Israeli-Palestinian Talks 'Progress' On Settlements

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have made progress on the issue of Jewish West Bank settlements in the latest round of Middle East peace talks, US envoy George Mitchell has said. His comments came after the two sides continued direct talks in Jerusalem. The Palestinians say they will walk out of the talks if a partial Israeli ban on settlement building is not extended. Israel has so far refused to renew the restrictions, which are due to expire on 30 September.The talks resumed two weeks ago, after a 20-month gap."I will say that the two leaders are not leaving the tough issues to the end of their discussions," Mr Mitchell said. "We take this as a strong indicator of their belief that peace is possible."Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his official residence in Jerusalem in talks mediated by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.The talks were a continuation of negotiations which began in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh on Tuesday.Few details of substance have emerged.Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are held to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.