Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 15:36
Afternoon Update (3:25 p.m. GMT): US envoy George Mitchell has embarked on his second tour of the Middle East, meeting Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in separate meetings.
Earlier, Mitchell was in Ankara to ensure Turkish leaders, who had criticised Israel over its conduct in the Gaza War, were on board: "Turkey is a crucial ally of the United States and an important force for peace and security in the Middle East."
This is almost a daily ritual. Two rockets fired into Israel; Israel strikes smuggling tunnels around Rafah.
Morning Update (11 a.m. GMT; 1 p.m. Israel/Palestine): The Palestinian "reconciliation" talks, involving a dozen groups but with most attention focused on Hamas and Fatah, have opened in Cairo. Egypt, after the failure of its strategy in the Gaza conflict is hoping to recover a prime position in the region with a successful outcome; its head of intelligence, Omar Suleiman (pictured), told delegates,
Everyone is looking toward you ... and hanging their hopes on you. So do not prolong the disagreement and deepen the division. Unite ranks to fulfill the hopes of all for an independent Palestinian state.
Fatah, with the Palestinian Authority's legal and political mandate in the West Bank in jeopardy, is pressing for a quick agreement on a new Palestinian government; Hamas is signalling that it will seek a longer process.
Meanwhile, in Israel, it appears that any prospect of a coaltion government of Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, has been doomed over differences on a two-state Israel-Palestine solution. Livni is insisting on a clear settlement; Netanyahu is holding out against it. Former foreign minister and Likud negotiator Silvan Shalom told Army Radio:
There is across-the-board agreement on Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas but there is a big gap between Kadima and Likud on the two states for two people. It's unsolvable.