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
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
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.