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Monday Dec. 6, 2010 10:59 PM (EST+7)
No reason to extend settlement freeze says Israeli foreign minister

Read more: Foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, settlement, settlement freeze, peace process

LJUBLJANA, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Israel has no reason to extend its moratorium on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank but is ready for talks with the Palestinians, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday.

Speaking during a one-day visit to Slovenia, Lieberman said the Middle East peace talks were deadlocked anyway, despite the moratorium, and added: We do not see any benefits (of the moratorium).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held three rounds of direct talks in September but the Palestinians withdrew from the talks three weeks later, when a 10-month partial Israeli freeze on settlement building expired.

After 10 months of the moratorium on settlements we are still in the deadlock ... I do not see any reason to extend this moratorium now, Lieberman told reporters.

He said the Palestinian position, that they would resume talks only after the settlement moratorium had been extended shows their real intention to bring these talks to a deadlock.

The Palestinians want Israel to stop building on land where they intend to found an independent state, including areas in and around East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Last week Israel announced plans to build 625 new homes near East Jerusalem, prompting chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to say that Israel has chosen settlements and not peace and to urge Washington to blame Israel for the collapse of the peace process.

Lieberman said on Monday If the Palestinians are ready for direct talks they are more than welcome, we are ready to discuss every issue but again without preconditions.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that the United States was still working to relaunch peace talks, despite the Palestinian assessment that negotiations with Israel had collapsed.






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