WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - US envoy George Mitchell meets officials in Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian territories this week to try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the State Department said on Tuesday.
Mitchell was to have dinner with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Tuesday and then see Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on Wednesday before going to Damascus for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the same day.
Later in the week, he was to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has hinted recently at a willingness to resume peace talks without an absolute freeze on Jewish settlement building.
His trip is part of our ongoing efforts to encourage both sides to return to negotiations as soon as possible to secure a lasting comprehensive peace in the region, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.
Abbas was quoted by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa on Saturday as saying, Either Israel commits to a halt of settlement, and the terms of reference, or America comes and says this is the endgame with regard to defining borders, the refugee issue, and other final issues, so we can reach a political solution.
Abbas has previously taken the position he would not return to peace negotiations without Israel carrying out a total freeze on settlement building. (Editing by Peter Cooney)