27 September 2010
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to continue peace talks after Israel’s ten-month-long building freeze in West Bank settlements expired on Sunday. Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday that Israel was "ready to pursue continuous contacts [with the Palestinian leadership] in the coming days." He added: "During my government's term in office, Israel has gone a significant way towards helping the Palestinians by easing restrictions, which has advanced their quality of life, both in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and in the Gaza Strip. I say to President Abbas: For the future of both our peoples, let us focus on what is really important. Let us proceed in accelerated, sincere and continuous talks in order to bring about an historic peace framework agreement within one year."
Abbas urged Israel to re-impose the settlement freeze. His spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said it was the only way peace talks could succeed. The Palestinian Authority requested a meeting with Arab League foreign ministers to decide how to proceed with peace talks if construction resumes. Abbas is reported to have said the foreign ministers' meeting would take place on 4 October.
The ‘Jerusalem Post’ reports that Jerusalem and Ramallah have agreed to devote another week to finding a compromise that would keep talks from breaking down. A US State Department spokesman released a statement late Sunday saying top that US diplomats had met with Israeli and Palestinian officials to prevent an early end of the direct talks, which were launched earlier this month.
In the West Bank, Israeli settlers and their supporters began celebrating the end of the partial construction freeze. About 2,000 people rallied in the settlement of Revava, where they released balloons hours ahead of the moratorium's expiration. In the nearby Kiryat Netafim settlement, residents laid the cornerstone for a new kindergarten. Netanyahu urged West Bank settlers to "show restraint" as the deadline approached.
Abbas was to meet with the leadership of the French Jewish community in Paris on Monday, the president of the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF, Richard Prasquier, said in a statement. Last week, Abbas met in New York with several American Jewish leaders, including the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder (see picture).
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