**Peace talks**

*”We are asking all parties to take meaningful steps,”* Mitchell said after four trips to the Middle East where he has met with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders as well as the leaders of other Arab countries.

*”For the Israelis, that means a stop to settlements and other actions. For the Palestinians, that means continuing their efforts to take responsibility for security and end incitement,”* Mitchell said.

*”We are also asking the Arab countries to take meaningful steps toward peace and normalization,”* he said.

The peace negotiations stalled before Obama succeeded George W. Bush as president, when Israel launched a 22-day war against the Palestinian movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip in late December, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and wounded 5,000.
The envoy, a former mediator in the Northern Ireland conflict, said *”hard work remains”* but he is *”encouraged by the progress”* made in his discussions with the parties to revive the peace talks.

*”We hope to conclude the discussions in which we are now engaged very soon. To me it’s a matter of weeks, not many months,”* he said.

Although there have been many false starts to end the 61-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict, Mitchell said peace is *”possible”* and there were new reasons to be optimistic.

He noted a *”dramatic difference”* in regional attitudes toward peace because of Obama’s early commitment to and total personal involvement in the search for a solution.