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Israeli PM: Peace Talks Could Resume Soon

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that peace talks with the Palestinians could resume in the coming weeks. The talks have been stalled for more than a year. There was new hope for a resumption of negotiations on Wednesday.

The Israeli Prime Minister spoke at an annual security conference in the seaside community of Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv. He said Israel hopes for peace talks soon.

Mr. Netanyahu said he has reason to hope that in the coming weeks Israel will restart peace talks with the Palestinians without preconditions.

The Israeli leader did not give details of why the resumption of talks could be imminent.

The Palestinians have insisted that Israel halt all construction inside Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank before they return to talks.

In remarks at the conference on Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad said the Palestinians want to see signs that the occupation is being rolled back.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials about Mr. Netanyahu's remarks.

One factor complicating the peace process is the division between the two major Palestinian groups. The moderate Fatah faction that runs the West Bank is locked in an impasse with Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Israel is willing to talk with Fatah, but regards Hamas as a terrorist group with which it will not negotiate directly.

On Wednesday, there was a sign that tensions between the two Palestinian groups could be easing. A senior Fatah official, Nabil Shaath, went to Gaza for meetings with Hamas. It was the first time there has been such high-level contact between the two groups since Hamas violently seized power and forced Fatah out of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Fatah and Hamas officials said they are pursuing reconciliation talks.

In his speech, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu praised the Palestinians' efforts to build their economy and institutions, and called on them to pursue peace.

He said that if that willingness exists among the Palestinians, there will be a resumption of peace talks in the coming weeks.

The apparent moves toward peace follow a recent visit to the region by U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, who pressed Israelis and Palestinians to do more to re-launch negotiations.