Mitchell Leaving for Critical Mideast Meetings

By Jennifer Parker

Jun 5, 2009 7:35pm

White House officials know they have to follow up the president's Cairo speech with real progress on the ground in the Middle East.

That's why special Mideast envoy former Sen. George Mitchell is leaving early next week for critical meetings in the Middle East, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Both Israeli and American officials are confident the prime minister is prepared to accept President Barack Obama's goal of a two-state solution.

They also say they're making progress on the controversial issue of the settlement "freeze" in the West Bank.

If they can make progress there, they then will go to the Palestinians to convince them to reinforce their obligations under the road map, and get them to meet with the Israelis which they haven't done.

And then go to the other Arab nations and get them to do more to normalize relations with Israel including cultural and commercial contacts.

The key meeting there will be Mitchell's meeting with Syrian President Basher Assad at the end of his trip.

–George Stephanopoulos

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