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Israel, US conclude talks without Palestine settlement agreement

LiveMint logoLiveMint 24-03-2017 AFP

Jerusalem: Israel and the United States concluded talks in Washington on advancing peace with the Palestinians, without agreeing on one of the thorniest issues—Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

The US delegation, led by President Donald Trump’s special representative Jason Greenblatt, reiterated the president’s “concerns regarding settlement activity,” a joint statement read of the four-day talks, which ended late Thursday.

The Israelis “made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes these concerns into consideration,” the statement read. The Trump administration is looking for ways to revive peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians.

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Israeli settlement building in east Jerusalem and the West Bank is seen as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state. Much of the international community has raised increasing alarm over settlement expansion, saying it is gradually eating away at prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from members of his coalition to advance settlement construction, which was a major source of contention with the Obama administration.

The new administration has been slow to curb Israeli settlement announcements and has yet to set a clear policy on the subject. When meeting Netanyahu at the White House in February, Trump called for Israel to “hold back on settlements for a little bit”.

A “principal focus” of the talks was ways to alleviate the faltering Palestinian economy in Gaza and the West Bank, the statement read.

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