Israel - Palestine - US

Clinton leads last-ditch effort to keep Palestinians in peace talks

The Palestinian delegation, including President Mahmoud Abbas (top R), listens as US President Barack Obama addresses the UN General Assembly in New York.
The Palestinian delegation, including President Mahmoud Abbas (top R), listens as US President Barack Obama addresses the UN General Assembly in New York. Reuters

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attempt to convince Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas not to walk out of peace talks later on Saturday, as the expiry of Israel's partial freeze on settlement building looms with no agreement to replace it.

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Clinton and Abbas are due to hold a second meeting in New York on Saturday, after the two spent 25 minutes in discussions on Friday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Abbas described the talks as providing "nothing new".

He has warned that talks will collapse unless Israel extends its moratorium on new settlements in the West Bank, which is due to expire on Sunday.

Israeli officials indicated on Friday that they were willing to reach a compromise acceptable to the US and Palestinians.

But Abbas' advisors say he will reject any deal that does not guarantee a "complete halt" to the construction of settlements.

"A total freeze must be maintained on settlement activity in the Palestinian territories, including in Jerusalem. We reject any partial solution," said top aide Nabil Abu Rudeina.

Settlement construction is incompatible with viable peace talks, said the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, on Friday.

"Stopping building settlements - continuing, or extending or prolonging the moratorium - is a must, and is a message... that the Israeli policy is serious about this," Moussa said in New York. "Negotiations cannot go with settlements."

Meanwhile an Israeli government official told the AFP news agency there "cannot be zero construction" in the West Bank - and that new settlements shouldn't be an impediment to further talks.

Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak and lawyer Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu's point man on the talks, will remain in New York to aid efforts to find a compromise, according to Israeli media.

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