RAMALLAH, West Bank, (AP) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he has asked the U.S. to settle a dispute with Israel over settlement expansion that is threatening to derail Mideast peace talks.
Israel’s 10-month partial freeze on new construction in West Bank settlements ends Sept. 26, and Israeli officials have indicated they will not extend the freeze as is. Abbas has said he’ll quit peace talks with Israel unless the restrictions remain in place.
Abbas said late Monday that he has asked the U.S. “to intervene in the settlement issue.”
The Obama administration has promised an active role in the talks, Abbas told reporters accompanying him on his way back from Washington, where talks were launched last week after a hiatus of nearly two years.
“The U.S. will be present at the negotiations, not necessarily behind closed doors, but (U.S. mediators) can be inside the room, or outside,” Abbas said.
Settlements take up land the Palestinians want for a state, and Abbas views Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision on the freeze as a test of his intentions.
Abbas and Netanyahu will meet twice next week, first in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik and then in Jerusalem.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will attend the Jerusalem meeting.