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Israel, Palestinians Trade Blame for Stalled Peace Talks

U.S. President Barack Obama made a fresh appeal Thursday for Israel and the Palestinians to jump-start stalled peace negotiations. But getting the two sides together will not be easy.

Israel and the Palestinians are trading blame after President Obama's call to resume peace talks. The right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it has been ready to return to the negotiating table since it took power five months ago. But Israel says the Palestinians imposed an unacceptable precondition - namely, a complete freeze on settlement expansion.

"We are ready to open up a serious dialogue with the Palestinians without preconditions, without any further delay," said Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says his side is not imposing conditions. Rather it is demanding that Israel fulfill its obligations under the internationally-backed "Roadmap" peace plan.

"Israel has an obligation under the roadmap to stop settlement activities," said Erekat.

President Obama called for a return to peace talks on Thursday, two days after the Israeli government announced a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank. While construction projects already underway will continue, Israel says no new projects have been approved since Mr. Netanyahu took office in March.

Mr. Obama welcomed the Israeli announcement as a sign of progress, but the Palestinians say it is a publicity stunt. Palestinian officials say the current construction of thousands of Jewish homes will continue for years, creating facts on the ground in territory claimed for a future Palestinian state.