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Current differences won't affect U.S.-Israel ties - Obama envoy


TEL AVIV, June 9 (RIA Novosti) - The United States will maintain close relations with Israel despite current differences over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the president's special envoy to the region said Tuesday.

The Barack Obama administration has urged the new Israeli government to halt settlement construction in the West Bank, the Palestinians' main condition for a peace deal, and to support a two-state solution to the conflict. Settlement growth has been a key point of dispute between Israel and the U.S.

George Mitchell said policy differences "are not disagreements among adversaries" but between "close allies and friends."

Mitchell is currently on a tour of the region, including stops in the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. His comments followed Obama's speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last week, when the president urged for a new start in relations with Islamic countries, and pledged to work to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The envoy said at a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres: "We all share an obligation to create the conditions for the prompt resumption and early conclusion of negotiations."

He also said the U.S. is working hard to contribute to achieving "comprehensive peace in the Middle East... including a Palestinian state, side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel."

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