| GEO World|
| Barak sees progress in U.S. envoy talks|
| Updated at: 1734 PST, Tuesday, July 07, 2009|
LONDON: Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday he and U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell had made progress in their second session of talks within a week on encouraging regional peace.
"I think there is progress. There's still a way to go," Barak said after the talks in London.
U.S. President Barack Obama has pressed Israel to halt settlement activity as part of a bid to revive peace talks under which the Palestinians would gain statehood.
In a rare dispute between Israel and its main ally, the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to declare a settlement freeze, saying some building should continue to match population growth in the enclaves.
Barak said he expected no imminent announcement on Israeli settlement building. "I think it will take still a few weeks before it will become clear," he said.
However Barak, who last met Mitchell on Tuesday in New York, said he was optimistic about the chances of "preparing the ground for launching a major peace process."
In Washington, the U.S. State Department released a joint statement from Barak and Mitchell saying they had "constructive discussions" that will continue with Netanyahu, Barak, and other Israeli officials "in the near future."
"They re-affirmed their commitment to the common objective of a regional peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Syria, and Lebanon and the steps necessary to achieve it," the statement said.