Obama sees ‘window of opportunity’ for Mideast peace talks

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama said there was a "window of opportunity" to kick-start Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

Speaking after meeting Thursday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Obama said the two "talked about Middle East peace, where there’s at least a window of opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians to get back to the peace table."

"We explored how the United States, as a strong friend of Israel and a supporter of the Palestinian state, can work with the United Nations and multilateral bodies to try to move that process forward," the U.S. leader said.

The comments came two days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry dubbed his talks with Israeli and P.A. leaders in the Middle East this week "very constructive.”

Kerry cautioned that it was more important to find ways of resuming the long-frozen negotiations correctly rather than "quickly."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants a full freeze on construction in the West Bank before returning to talks, while Israel is insisting there be no preconditions, according to reports on Israel Radio.

Abbas told Kerry on Sunday that Israel should freeze construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem and release terrorist prisoners, especially those arrested before the 1993 Oslo Accords, before any resumption of peace talks. 

Kerry continued to London, where he attended a summit of foreign ministers from the G-8 industrial nations.

In its closing statement, the G-8 called among other things for the Israelis and the Palestinians " to refrain from unilateral actions and to create an atmosphere conducive to peace" — code for Israel to stop settlement expansion and for the Palestinians not to seek statehood recognition outside of negotiations.

The G-8 also said that Iran’s only way out of punishing sanctions was to cooperate with the international community in making more transparent Iran’s nuclear program.

"Iran has the ability to avoid further isolation and improve its situation only if it promptly addresses the concerns of the international community,’ said the April 11 statement.

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