Spain urges Israelis, Palestinians back to negotiating table
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero urged Israel and the Palestinians on Wednesday to return to the negotiating table during talks with visiting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Abbas is in Spain as part of a foreign tour aimed at drumming up support for United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state amid a long stalemate in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
During their talks Zapatero "called on work to continue on finding a consensual solution that will allow both sides to resume their dialogue and return to the bargaining table," the Spanish government said in a statement.
The meeting came on the same day as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was willing to hold peace talks with the Palestinians immediately.
"I'm prepared to negotiate with president Abbas directly for peace between our two peoples right now. We can do it here in my home in Jerusalem, we can do it in Ramallah (in the West Bank), we can do it anywhere," he told Arabic-language television station Al-Arabiya.
Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since last September over the issue of settlement construction.
The negotiations broke down shortly after they started when a partial settlement freeze expired, which Israel refused to renew.
Since then, the Palestinians have said they will not talk while Israel builds on land they want for their future state, turning instead to the United Nations where they hope to obtain recognition and membership for a state on the lines that existed before the Six Day War.
The United States has been cool to the idea of UN recognition and has urged the Palestinians and Israel not to take unilateral steps that could jeopardise a final peace settlement.
© 2011 AFP