WASHINGTON - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his hope, in a series of conversations Saturday, that the government of Israel would broaden its policy of restricting settlement construction in the West Bank.
The secretary-general spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. In a notice issued almost at the same time as the PLO executive committee decided to suspend talks over the settlement construction issue, Ban emphasized the need to maintain an atmosphere conducive to negotiations.
The crisis in the direct talks has still not led to any changes on Israel's political map, but the opposition is already using it to remind the prime minister that the breakdown of negotiations would have serious consequences for Israel.
Following the PLO decision, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said "Kadima calls on the prime minister to take the right decisions to enable the talks to continue and to prevent their collapse."
"Kadima will support any decision which will advance the negotiations and strengthen Israel's security interests, and will fight against any decisions leading to the cessation of the talks and seriously harm Israel's interests," Livni said. "Netanyahu must choose according to Israel's real long-term interests, above any personal political interests."
Roni Sofer and Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report.
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