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At Peace Talks, Arab Leaders Call for Settlement Freeze and Final Status

At the launch of renewed peace talks, Arab leaders called on Israel to sustain a settlement freeze and to negotiate final status issues.

“We call on the Israelis to carry out their obligations, including a freeze on settlements activities, which is not setting a precondition but a call to implement an agreed obligation,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in remarks delivered before he dined at the White House with President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders.

Abbas also made clear he expects the talks to encompass a final status agreement.

“We will spare no effort, and will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure that these new negotiations achieve their goals and objectives in dealing with all of the issues: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, border security, water, as well as the release of all our prisoners,” he said.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also touched on the final status negotiations and the settlement freeze in his remarks. Jordan’s King Abdullah said an agreement must be concluded sooner rather than later.

Abbas has threatened to bolt the talks unless Netanyahu extends a 10-month partial moratorium on settlement expansion that is due to end Sept. 26. Netanyahu has indicated that any further settlement freezes will come as part of a peace agreement, which is not expected for at least a year.

The Israeli government also favors establishing security measures before advancing to final status talks.

“Peace must also be defended against its enemies,” Netanyahu said in his remarks. “We want the skyline of the West Bank to be dominated by apartment towers, not missiles. We want the roads of the West Bank to flow with commerce, not terrorists.”

Netanyahu also called on Abbas not to dwell on the failed efforts of the past.

“If we work together, we can take advantage of the great benefits afforded by our unique place under the sun,” he said. “We’re the crossroads of three continents, at the crossroads of history, and the crossroads of the future. Our geography, our history, our culture, our climate, the talents of our people can be unleashed to create extraordinary opportunities in tourism, in trade, in industry, in energy, in water, in so many areas.”

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