WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- As direct peace talks with Palestine are scheduled to resume in Washington on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that his government will not extend the moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank when it expires later this month, his office announced Wednesday.
Netanyahu made the remarks in his meeting Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his office said in a statement. "It is impossible to take the issue of settlements in the West Bank, which is an issue for the permanent agreement and deal with it separately at the beginning of the direct talks," the statement quoted Netanyahu as saying. "We are not looking for excuses to stop the negotiations. The opposite, we came here to find a real solution without preconditions."
Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has warned that Palestine would drop off the direct peace talks with Israel if the moratorium is not extended when it expires on September 26. Settlements in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem are considered illegal by the international community. The Palestinians hope to create an independent and sovereign state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. Under U.S. pressure, Israel imposed a 10- month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank in November last year. The move took the Palestinians to indirect talks with Israelis in May.
"For its part, Israel should make no mistake: settlements and peace are incompatible, as they deepen the occupation that Palestinians seek to end," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was invited by U.S. President Barack Obama to Washington for the peace talks, wrote Wednesday in the New York Times.
"A complete halt to Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is critical if the negotiations are to succeed, starting with an extension of Israel's moratorium on settlement-building," President Mubarak wrote.
Netanyhu and Abbas are scheduled to meet directly Thursday at the U.S. State of Department, the first direct negotiations between the two sides since December 2008.
Hamas, which opposes peace talks with Israel, killed four Jewish settlers Tuesday near the West Bank city of Hebron, raising outrage in Israel. In the above-mentioned statement, Netanyahu urged "restraint" by all parties.
"At a time like this when all of Israel is united in deep mourning over the murder of four innocent civilians, I call on all parties to act with restraint, responsibility and respect the rule of law," the statement said.
Hamas has vowed more attacks on the Israelis to derail the direct negotiations under way in Washington.
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