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Israel must choose between peace and settlements: Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday told the United Nations General Assembly that Israel "must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements".

world Updated: Sep 27, 2010 07:46 IST

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday told the United Nations General Assembly that Israel "must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements".

"We affirm our complete readiness to cooperate with the American efforts for the success of the political process to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting peace," Abbas said.

Abbas spoke as the clock ticked down on a Sunday deadline in Israel that could lift building restrictions on Jewish settlers in Palestinian territory.

If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allows a current building freeze to expire, the Palestinians have threatened to walk out on newly-started peace talks.

But Abbas did not repeat that threat before the United Nations, as US diplomats intensified their efforts to keep the talks going and pressured Israel to extend the freeze.

Abbas met for 25 minutes late Friday with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and the negotiators from an Israeli delegation to the UN General Assembly extended their stay in Washington after a series of meetings with US and Palestinian officials in New York.

US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told reporters that talks were "intense".

"We are urging Israel to extend the moratorium. And we also are making clear to the Palestinians that we do not believe that it is in their interest to walk out of the talks," he said.

"What I sense is that the Israeli and Palestinian delegations are looking for ways to make sure the talks continue beyond Sunday," Feltman said.

Arab countries have apparently joined the effort to make sure the talks continue. Clinton plans to meet Monday with Syria's Foreign Minister Wallid Muallem as part of US efforts to try to restart the Syria-Israel track, Feltman said.

"A comprehensive peace has to include the Syria-Israel track. It's absolutely essential that Syria be part of this process," Feltman said.

The US hopes that the Arab summit on October 9 will express support by Arab countries for Abbas in the negotiating process. That support was "essential" to the re-start of talks on September 2, and the US hopes that financial support will also be forthcoming for the Palestinian Authority for economic development, Feltman said.

Clinton attended a meeting earlier this week with Palestinian Foreign Minister Salam Fayyad and Arab ministers in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly.