Lieberman: Freeze extension has no bearing on direct talks

(JTA) – The foreign minister of Israel rejected any link between extending a West Bank building freeze and direct talks with the Palestininans.

Avigdor Lieberman told a joint news conference Wednesday with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos that Israel has no plans to extend the 10-month freeze after September. Extending the freeze is among the Palestinian Authority’s conditions for moving to direct negotiations with Israel.

Lieberman said there was no room for linkage between such talks and a settlement construction freeze.

"We must start direct talks, but there is no place for a [construction] moratorium after Sept. 25," he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly will tell the Arab League’s peace process committee on Thursday that the lack of progress in the proximity peace talks with Israel rules out moving to direct talks, a Palestinian official said Wednesday, according to a Reuters report.

"Abbas will tell them that until this moment, there is nothing to convince us to go to direct talks," the official told Reuters. "There is nothing new."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the construction freeze last November. The Palestinian Authority described it as insufficient, notably because it did not include eastern Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

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