Israeli settlement freeze to be discussed in direct talks: U.S.
The U.S. State Department said on Monday that the extension for Israeli settlement moratorium will be discussed when Israeli and Palestinian leaders launch direct talks in Washington next month, Xinhua reported.
"We are very mindful of the Palestinian position, and once we' re now into direct negotiations we expect that both parties will do everything within their power to create an environment for those negotiations to continue constructively," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said at a regular briefing.
But he dodged the question when asked whether the U.S. has been working with the Israelis to expand the settlement freeze, only saying "this will be among the topics discussed early on."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on Friday the United States has invited the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders to launch Middle East peace direct talks on Sept. 2 in Washington D.C..
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was apparently placated by Clinton's "no precondition" remarks, hailed on Friday the U.S. invitation immediately after her announcement.
The Palestinian side has also accepted the invitation. However, the disagreement on settlement freeze could potentially derail the talks soon after their difficult start.
Israel Radio reported on Monday that Israel was unlikely going to renew the 10-month freeze, which ends on Sept. 26. But Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, said later the day if Israel did not renew the freeze, it means it has decided to end the negotiations.