Obama meet Netanyahu on stalled peace process

15:00, November 10, 2009      

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U.S. President Barack Obama and visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting in the White House Monday night, in an attempt to re-launch the stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The two leaders discussed security cooperation on a range of issues and also discussed "Iran and how to move forward on Middle East peace," said a White House statement, adding that Obama reaffirmed "strong commitment to Israel's security."

The statement gave no more details on the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, which was coming as Washington has been pressing the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) tore-launch the long-stalled peace talks.

PNA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to step down because the Netanyahu-led government's refusal to fully freeze Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, where some 450,000 Israelis live in more than 100 settlements.

Abbas, who is seen by the international community as a moderate Palestinian leader, slammed Israel's plans to approve additional settlement construction as "unacceptable," saying no talks with Israel until settlement activities is totally halted.

The Netanyahu-led government, criticizing the PNA of setting precondition for resumption of peace talks, has tried to convince Washington that Israel has restrained settlement activities and that the Israeli government wants to resume the talks.

Hours ahead of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reiterated call for Israel to put an end to Jewish settlements in West Bank.

"The policy of the United States government for many decades has been: no more settlements, that's not something that is new with this administration," Gibbs told reporters.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu told the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America that his government would "make great concessions" for a permanent peace with the Palestinians but "there can be no concessions on Israel's security."

"No Israeli government has been so willing to restrain settlement activities as part of an effort to re-launch peace talks," said the prime minister, calling Abbas by name and saying "let us seize the moment, let us re-launch peace talks immediately."

"My goal is not negotiations for the sake of negations. My goal is to achieve a permanent peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, and soon," said Netanyahu.

Source: Xinhua
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