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Israel Offers More Gestures to Enable Direct Peace Talks


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York, Wednesday, to discuss issues including Israeli-Palestinian peace-making efforts.

Earlier Wednesday, the Israeli leader said he is prepared to ease the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank to enable the two sides to begin direct peace negotiations.

In an interview with U.S. television network ABC Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel also is willing to give a boost to Palestinian economic projects. But he said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must shake his hand and negotiate a peace settlement with him.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said they key to direct talks lies in Mr. Netanyahu's hands.

Erekat said Mr. Abbas will not agree to such talks until Israel commits to a total freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas the Palestinians want for a future state.

In his ABC interview, the Israeli prime minister declined to say whether he is willing to extend a 10-month partial freeze on West Bank Jewish settlement construction that is due to expire in September.

Mr. Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama did not mention the settlement issue when they spoke to reporters Tuesday during a meeting at the White House.

Mr. Obama backed Mr. Netanyahu's call for direct talks with the Palestinians during the meeting. Mr. Obama said he hoped such negotiations can begin before the Israeli settlement freeze expires in late September.

Mr. Netanyahu told the reporters that talk of a demise in U.S.-Israeli ties are "flat wrong." He said there is a "depth" and "richness" in the relationship between the two countries. Mr. Obama said the U.S.-Israeli bond is "unbreakable."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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