No deal: Mideast round ends amid fresh violence

A mortar attack by Palestinian militants and airstrikes by Israel formed the grim backdrop as Mideast leaders ended their latest round of peace talks Wednesday, still divided on major issues. There was no word on when they would meet again.

The inconclusive U.S.-brokered talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left in doubt the prospects for their new effort to end generations of hostilities in the region and create a sovereign Palestine alongside a secure Israel.

George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy for Mideast peace efforts, emerged from an evening session to say the talks had been encouraging but had fallen short of agreement.

“A serious and substantive discussion is well under way,” Mitchell told a news conference.

Abbas and Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for about two hours at the Israeli leader’s official residence here and agreed to continue the search for a peace deal, he said.

But the leaders face a looming crisis with the expiration this month of Israel’s partial moratorium on West Bank settlement construction, and it was not clear when they would reconvene. Lower-level officials will meet next week to work out a plan for the next meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas, Mitchell said.