Netanyahu to meet Abbas in Paris next month
Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Paris next month and and sees their continued peace talks as "essential," the Israeli prime minister's office said on Tuesday.
Negotiations, relaunched on September 2 after months of US mediation, were in danger of collapse after a 10-month moratorium on the building of new settler homes in the West Bank expired on Sunday.
A statement from Netanyahu's office said he spoke by phone to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and accepted Sarkozy's invitation to meet Abbas in Paris "in October." A date was not named.
"I hope that my good talks with Abu Mazen (Abbas) will continue. This is essential," the statement quoted Netanyahu as saying. "I believe with all my heart that it is within our power to reach a framework agreement within a year and to transform the history of the Middle East."
Abbas has said he will not officially respond to the end of the settlement freeze until after talks with the Palestinian leadership this week and Arab foreign ministers on Monday, but that settlements should be halted for the duration of the peace talks.
"We demand a moratorium for as long as there are negotiations, because for as long as there are negotiations there is hope," he told a French radio station on Tuesday during a visit to Paris.
Netanyahu's office said the Israeli leader would meet US envoy George Mitchell on Wednesday "in an extra effort to find a solution to continuing talks (with the Palestinians)."
© 2010 AFP