Netanyahu wants Palestinian talks
Says issues can be resolved face to face
PARIS — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said yesterday that it’s time to move to direct talks with the Palestinians and that he will raise the issue with President Obama in Washington next week.
Netanyahu, after talks in Paris with President Nicolas Sarkozy, said he wants to move beyond indirect “proximity talks’’ that are being mediated by the United States.
“We want to move as speedily as possible to direct talks because the kind of problem that we have with the Palestinians can be resolved in peace and can be arranged only if we sit down together,’’ Netanyahu told reporters at the French presidential palace.
Indirect talks began early this month and have raised hopes that direct negotiations could begin soon.
The Palestinians have insisted that Israel impose a full freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — captured areas they claim for their future state — in order to hold direct talks.
With Netanyahu ordering a partial freeze, the indirect talks gave the Palestinians political cover to resume a dialogue with Israel. The Palestinians have given the talks up to four months to succeed. Within that period, they say, they will decide whether to continue the dialogue, hold face-to-face negotiations with Israel, or break off the talks.
Netanyahu said yesterday that he would discuss the peace efforts with Obama in Washington next week. “I think there is a broad consensus that we should move on to direct talks,’’ the Israeli prime minister said.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said yesterday that he hopes indirect talks will yield results in four months, as envisaged.
“Of course we are committed to peace and to achieving peace through negotiations,’’ Abbas said during a visit to Malaysia. “We will see what will happen. Anyhow, we are hopeful.’’
In Paris, Netanyahu said Sarkozy “discussed ways that France could help to expedite this process of negotiations.’’ Sarkozy’s office did not elaborate.
The French president has encouraged peace efforts in the past, and he offered yesterday to help revive peace efforts between Israel and Syria, according to the French president’s office.
Netanyahu praised Sarkozy’s efforts toward tough new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear activities, which Western powers and Israel fear are aimed at making weapons but which Tehran says are aimed at producing nuclear energy.
Netanyahu is in Paris for a ceremony welcoming Israel into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of leading world economies. Palestinian officials opposed OECD membership for Israel, citing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and discrimination against its Arab minority.
Slovenia and Estonia also officially accepted invitations to full OECD membership.
The new members will take the OECD’s roster to 34 countries once ratification takes place in individual OECD member states, which will take several weeks, OECD chief Angel Gurria said.
The OECD is essentially an economic think tank that advises the world’s richest countries on the best practices in matters including trade, corporate governance, and taxation.
Netanyahu said in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro that “one of the current challenges is to develop the economic situation of the Palestinians,’’ which he says “could greatly help’’ peace efforts.