RAMALLAH, July 10 (JMCC) - US envoy George Mitchell will visit the region next week, announced the Palestinian president's office Saturday.
Observers fear that the surprise visit is a harbinger of pressure to be applied to the Palestinian side to move from indirect talks to direct negotiations with Israel
The visit comes after US President Barack Obama called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Friday to discuss the possibilities for moving to direct talks.
No exact date for the visit was announced.
It also follows a meeting last Tuesday in Washington between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Since the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, things are now in the Palestinian side's court, says Birzeit University professor Samih Shabih. It will come under great US and international pressure to launch direct negotiations with the Israelis.
While no mention was made of Mitchell's plans when he arrives in the region, Obama pledged to make every effort to get the two sides to direct talks.
Palestinians have said that before they move to direct negotiations, Israel must provide positive incentives that signal the Israeli position on the final status issues of borders and security. They are asking Israel to recognize that the 1967 borders form the basis of the borders of the future Palestinian state.
Indirect, or proximity talks, between Palestinian and Israelis have been underway for three months, with little signs of progress.