Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stay at the negotiating table despite the resumed settlement construction in the West Bank.
Top Palestinian officials threatened to pull out from direct peace talks if Israel refuses to extend its ten-month freeze on settlement construction in the occupied territories in the West Bank, which ended on September 26.
"The Palestinians agreed to engage in direct peace talks, sans preconditions, after my government offered a series of unilateral gestures to prompt these talks," - Israel's Ynet news portal quoted the premier as saying.
"I hope the Palestinians decide against turning their back on peace and continue with the negotiation in order to achieve a peace deal within a year," the prime minister said.
There are more than 400,000 Israelis living in some 120 settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory. Diplomats from the Middle East Quartet of international peace mediators have urged Netanyahu to halt settlement building to save the peace talks.
"In the past, and for 17 years, the Palestinians held direct talks with Israel's governments, while construction went on in Judea and Samaria, including in the final year of the last government."
"The way to achieve a historic peace agreement between our two peoples is to sit around the negotiating table seriously and continuously, and not leave, because this is the place to resolve the differences between us," the prime minister said.
The prime minister's statement comes shortly after top officials of the Fatah movement and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have expressed their support for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who said Israel "must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements.
"The leadership confirms that the resumption of talks requires tangible steps, the first of them a freeze on settlements," Haaretz quoted an official announcement by the PLO executive committee, read by chairman Yasser Abed Rabbo.
"The Palestinian leadership sees Israel as responsible for the suspension of the talks," it reads.
"The position is clear: no negotiations under the shadow of settlement construction," Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian president, was quoted as saying by Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
"So far, efforts have reached a dead end," Reuters quoted him as saying. "All the while Israel is not convinced that the political process be based on international law and justice, matters will remain in a state of paralysis for a long time."
Palestinian president Abbas is expected to convene with Arab foreign ministers on October 6 to decide whether to fulfill his threat to pull out from direct talks, which resumed on September 2 in Washington after being stalled for 20 months. Both Abbas and Netanyahu earlier expressed their intention to do their best to achieve a long-awaited peace.
The Arab League meeting was initially scheduled for October 4, but was then postponed for 48 hours to give more time for U.S. and EU diplomats to persuade the Israelis and Palestinians to find a compromise to prevent the month-old peace talks from breaking down.
Egypt, a key mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, has proposed moving the meeting to the Libyan city of Sirt. The Arab League foreign ministers will meet there on October 8 to prepare an irregular summit of the Arab leaders due on October 9.
TEL AVIV, October 3 (RIA Novosti)