U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell says it is critically important to extend and consolidate a cease-fire in the conflict between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers.
Mitchell said Wednesday that Washington supports Egypt's efforts to mediate a truce between Israel and Hamas militants. He was speaking in Cairo after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Mitchell says his visit to the region is a clear signal that the new Obama administration is committed to pursuing Middle East peace and stability.
The U.S. envoy also visits Israel today to listen to the views of Israeli leaders on reviving the peace process. Mitchell travels next to the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday. He does not plan to meet with Hamas.
Mitchell began his first regional tour in Cairo Tuesday, meeting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
The U.S. State Department says Mitchell's talks in Egypt were "productive." It says his mission is to hear from U.S. allies about how to reach a sustainable cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and how to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Aboul Gheit said he is optimistic that a sustainable truce in Gaza can be reached in the first week of February.
Palestinian President Abbas said Tuesday that the recent Israeli offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers proves that Israel does not want peace.
Egypt also has been trying to reconcile Hamas and Mr. Abbas' Fatah faction, whose power base is in the West Bank. Cairo has proposed hosting talks between the rival factions on February 22nd.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, ousting Fatah forces loyal to Mr. Abbas and confining his authority to the West Bank.