Top Mideast officials fly to US as peace talks crisis looms
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Last Updated: Monday, September 20, 2010, 00:31
Jerusalem: Top Israeli and Palestinian officials headed for the United States where they were expected to seek ways to break a deadlock over settlements which is threatening to sabotage peace talks.

Israeli President Shimon Peres left shortly after midnight on a four-day visit to coincide with the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, and a few hours later Defence Minister Ehud Barak set off for talks in Washington.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, currently in Amman, was also to fly to New York today evening for the annual sitting, with efforts under way to arrange a meeting with US President Barack Obama, a senior Palestinian official said to a news agency.

"There are also preparations for a meeting between (Israeli premier Benjamin) Netanyahu, Obama and Abbas," he said. "There is an expectation that they will meet."

Netanyahu's office said he had no plans to fly to the United States this week, and would not say whether he would meet Abbas before the settlements freeze expires later this month.

Israel and the Palestinians began long-awaited peace negotiations earlier this month, but the talks may well collapse if the two sides fail to resolve a bitter dispute over an Israeli freeze on settlement construction.

So far, Israel has stubbornly refused to extend the partial 10-month moratorium on new construction. The Palestinians have vowed to pull out of the talks if the building resumes.

Addressing ministers of his right-wing Likud party after Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu once again laid out Israel's position: that the moratorium will end as planned.

"Last week, I held political talks in Sharm el-Sheikh and Jerusalem. I can't give any detail about the content of the talks because of its sensitivity. What I can say is that regarding the freeze, there has been no change in our position," he reassured them.


First Published: Monday, September 20, 2010, 00:31

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