Israeli PM calls on Palestinians to remain in peace talks (UPDATE)
Just after Israel's 10-month moratorium on Jewish settlements construction in the West Bank expired Sunday midnight, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to remain in the peace talks, Xinhua reported.
The premier urged Abbas "to continue the good and honest talks we have just now started in order to reach a historic peace agreement between our two peoples," according to a statement from him.
Settlement construction has been the main focus recently as the Israeli-Palestinian direct talks were re-launched earlier in the month. The Palestinians have vowed to quit the talks if Israel resumes its construction in the West Bank.
The Prime Minister's Office has not revealed if Netanyahu will extend the freeze, or, if so, to what extent, after the 10-month moratorium expired.
However, Netanyahu suggested in the statement that the parties will continue seeking a solution to maintain the peace talks in the following days.
"Israel is ready to pursue continuous contacts in the coming days to find a way to continue the peace talks," local daily newspaper Haaretz quoted the statement as saying.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Israeli government told Xinhua on Monday that Netanyahu is considering three options to substitute for the moratorium and keep the direct talks with the Palestinians on track.
According to the sources, the premier and his ministers estimate that the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority (PA) could possibly reach a compromise on the settlement freeze before Oct. 4, when the Arab League's monitoring committee will convene to decide whether the direct peace talks should continue after the settlement freeze is over.
Israeli officials are now discussing the possible formulas with the United States and the PA, but no agreement has been reached so far. One of the plans is that Israeli settlers keep building on the sites that have already received official approval, and that the Israeli government will prevent any future construction.