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US 'hopeful' settlement freeze can revive peace talks
US official says Obama administration hopes halt of settlement construction will contribute to resumption of negotiations, hasn't changed position on matter

The United States hopes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal for a 10-month settlement halt in the West Bank can help revive Middle East talks, a US official said Wednesday.

 

"We're hoping this will in some way contribute to the resumption of negotiations" between the Israelis and Palestinians, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

 

The official expressed such hopes while insisting the Obama administration has "not changed" its position toward settlements, which it wants stopped completely both in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

 

The Palestinians have been demanding a complete halt as a condition for resuming peace talks with Israel, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-leaning government has accepted only a partial halt.

 

Netanyahu's office said the prime minister is now asking his government to approve a 10-month moratorium on new building permits for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

 

Meanwhile, the Obama administration's envoy to the Arab-Israeli peace talks, George Mitchell, is scheduled to hold a press briefing at noon Wednesday in Washington.

 

US officials told AFP Mitchell would discuss the implications for the peace process of the Israeli announcement.

 

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