In a statement issued by his office Sunday as a 10-month moratorium on new construction in West Bank settlements expired, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on Abbas to continue "the sincere and good talks that have just begun."
Israeli media reports said Netanyahu and Abbas have agreed to devote another week to finding a compromise that will allow direct talks to continue and prevent a collapse due to Israel's decision not to extend the settlement construction freeze.
The proposal was raised in talks involving U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, American envoy to the Mideast George Mitchell, Abbas and his aide, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in New York during the weekend, the daily Maariv newspaper said Monday.
"I hope that President Abbas will remain in the talks and continue with me on the path of peace, which we started three weeks ago, after many in the world have now realized that my intentions of reaching peace are serious and sincere and that I honor my commitments," the statement issued by Netanyahu's office said.
In recent days, Netanyahu spoke with Clinton, other senior American officials, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II, the statement said.
"I say to President Abbas, for the sake of both our peoples, let us focus on what is truly important – accelerated, sincere and continuous talks to reach a historic framework agreement within a year," Netanyahu said.
Abbas told Jewish officials in Paris on Sunday that negotiating while Israel builds in the West Bank settlements would be a "waste of time," Ynetnews.com said Monday. The Palestinian president said he was satisfied with the progress made in direct negotiations, the Web site said.
On Sunday, thousands of settlers gathered at the Revava settlement near the West Bank city of Nablus to celebrate the end of the construction freeze. At the nearby settlement of Kiryat Netafim, settlers attended a groundbreaking ceremony where concrete was poured into the foundation of a new kindergarten, marking the end of the construction freeze, Haaretz reported.
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