ABU DHABI // George Mitchell, the US Middle East peace envoy, has held talks in the UAE with a view towards brokering a lasting ceasefire in Gaza. Mr Mitchell met on Saturday with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, ahead of today's international donor conference on the reconstruction of Gaza, which Israel bombarded and invaded in December and January. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed. Sheikh Mohammed reiterated the UAE's support of overtures towards a comprehensive settlement between the Palestinians and Israel.
Mr Mitchell briefed Sheikh Mohammed on his meetings since Thursday with Palestinian and Israeli leaders and King Abdullah of Jordan. This is Mr Mitchell's second visit to the region since he was appointed by the US president, Barack Obama. Today's conference in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, will be attended by delegates from more than 70 countries, including the foreign ministers of the six GCC nations and the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. The Palestinian Authority will ask donors for US$2.8 billion (Dh10.3bn), but conferees are expected to debate how to deliver aid to Gaza. Commercial and passenger crossings leading to Gaza have been closed for most of the past two years. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said this week that the only way to send aid was through his Palestinian Authority, which was ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007.
The GCC finance and foreign ministers met last week in Riyadh to co-ordinate their Gaza aid efforts. The UAE supports the efforts by Egypt to mediate between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Sheikh Mohammed, meanwhile, said that collaboration among the US, Europe and Arabs was necessary to promote renewed peace negotiations with Israel. The UAE supports the Arab Peace Initiative as the basis for peacefully settling the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was launched in Beirut during an Arab League summit in 2002 by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was then the kingdom's Crown Prince. firstname.lastname@example.org