Israel Asks U.S. to Prod Palestinians to Continue Peace Talks

UN chief says it is Israel that must make next move.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to press Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to continue the talks with Israel that began last month in Amman.

The Prime Minister's Office said that the conversation with Clinton lasted 45 minutes, and quoted Netanyahu as saying, "Israel is interested in continuous talks with the Palestinians while preserving the security interests of Israeli citizens."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah yesterday. Earlier in the day, Ban met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: AP

Netanyahu conveyed a similar message in his conversations on Wednesday with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Quartet envoy Tony Blair.

Ban told Netanyahu during their meeting that Israel must make confidence-building gestures toward the Palestinians to help them continue the talks in Jordan. Netanyahu didn't commit to make any such steps, but said he would consider them if he could be sure the Palestinians wouldn't break off the talks again in a few weeks.

During press conferences with Netanyahu and with Abbas, Ban supported the Palestinian position, saying Israel's creating facts on the ground through building settlements is not acceptable.

He also said the Palestinians had fulfilled the Quartet suggestion of presenting detailed proposals on borders and security. He called on Israel to do the same as soon as possible. If it does, he said, "it would be possible to return to negotiations."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who met Ban separately, accused the Palestinians of not being interested in advancing peace talks, but wanting to sabotage them, in an attempt to justify further unilateral moves at the United Nations.

Earlier in the morning, Ban met President Shimon Peres, and told a joint news conference after the parley that he was "convinced" Israel could "improve its strategic relations with its neighbors.

Abbas is expected to meet with the Arab League foreign ministers on Saturday to discuss the talks with Israel.

On Wednesday, the PA president seemed pessimistic about the chances of talks continuing, accusing Israel of foiling efforts to restart direct peace negotiations and blaming it for refusing to recognize the borders of a Palestinian state and halt construction in the West Bank settlements.

During his press conference with Ban, Abbas said that during the talks in Jordan, Israel did not present "any encouraging proposal that we could advance with."

He also said "Israel continues to establish facts on the ground, to build settlements and take control of lands in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This is something we cannot accept, not today and not tomorrow."

Meeting Westerwelle in Ramallah, Abbas similarly laid the blame for the suspension of the Amman talks on "Israeli intransigence."

The official Palestinian Wafa news agency quoted Abbas as telling Westerwelle that he would return to the table once Israel committed on the issues of borders and halting construction in the settlements.



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