Israel's stance on West Bank settlements 'unprecedented': US
Jerusalem: In a major turnaround, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hailed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stance on settlement constructions in the occupied West Bank as "unprecedented".
The surprising statement comes after the United States had previously asked Israel to halt all settlement buildings before negotiations could resume, leading to a major standoff between the two allies.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister, Hillary said that there has never been such a precondition.
"It has always been an issue with negotiations," she said adding, "What the Prime Minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements which he has just described, no new starts for example, is unprecedented in the context of prior to negotiations."
"It's also the fact that for forty years, Presidents of both parties have questioned the legitimacy of settlements, but I think that where we are right now is to try to get into the negotiations.”
"The Prime Minister will be able to present his government's proposal about what they are doing regarding settlements which I think when fully explained will be seen as being not only unprecedented in response to many of the concerns that have been expressed," the top US diplomat said.
Hillary also asked both Israel and the Palestinians to immediately renew peace talks that were stalled since the Israeli military action in Gaza in December last year.
"I want to see both sides as soon as possible begin in negotiations. Both (US) President (Barrack) Obama and I are committed to a comprehensive peace agreement," Hillary said.
Netanyahu, for his part, said that while Israel was willing to enter into peace talks without preconditions, the other side was not.
"We think we should sit around that negotiating table right away," he said.