Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday his government was making progress towards reopening talks with the Palestinians and hoped to be able to do so shortly.
Israel has so far resisted US President Barack Obama's calls to freeze settlement building so that peace talks may resume, and the dispute has led to a rare rift in the Jewish state's relations with Washington.
Speaking in London ahead of a meeting with the United States envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell, Netanyahu said: "We are making headway. My government has taken steps both in words and deeds to move forward."
Netanyahu, a right-wing leader in office since March, has pledged not to build any new settlements but wants to enable what he calls "natural growth" of existing enclaves.
The prime minister, whose comments during a photo opportunity were relayed to reporters by his spokesman, expressed hope the two sides would "shortly be able to resume normal talks".
Netanyahu with Mitchell (Photo: GPO)
"The goal is a wider peace, which is our common goal," he said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted on a freeze in all construction as a condition for renewing peace talks with Israel that have been stalled since December.
Netanyahu said ahead of his visit to London that he was seeking "a bridging formula which will enable us to launch a peace process and enable those residents (settlers) to live normal lives".
After his talks with Mitchell, Netanyahu is scheduled to fly to Berlin for talks on Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also a critic of settlement expansion.