News / Middle East

Settlement Deadline Threatens Mideast Peace Talks

Intense diplomatic efforts are underway to try and prevent the collapse of Middle East peace talks, just three weeks after they began.

Israel is urging the Palestinians not to carry out their threat to pull out of peace talks over the imminent end of a freeze on West Bank settlement construction. The 10-month moratorium is due to expire on Sunday. Israel has announced that it will not be extended, though construction in the settlements will be limited.

Bumpy road

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev says the peace process will have bumps in the road, and the Palestinians should stop making threats.

"The question is: Every time the parties face an obstacle in these talks is one party going to get up and leave the table? Because the process is not going to work that way; we've got to have a commitment, a determination, to make this process work," he said.

Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath says the process cannot succeed as long as Israel violates the internationally-backed "Road Map" peace plan.  "There is a requirement in the Road Map that Israel has to abide by, has to commit itself to, and that is a total end to all settlement activities," he said.

The United States has urged Israel to extend the moratorium, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from his right-wing coalition partners who insist on resuming construction in the settlements. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is working on a compromise proposal. She met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York and urged him not to quit the peace talks.

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